New and improved, the latest iteration of Delusion is back - but not for long. Creator Jon Braver explains why.
Over the course of the past eight years, Delusion: Interactive Theatre has established itself as one of the major Los Angeles Halloween Attractions. Its appeal extends beyond October; the interactive, immersive theatrical experience typically sells out performances from September through December. The play has become so popular that creator Jon Braver attempted a novel experiment: resurrecting last Halloween's Delusion: The Blue Blade (reviewed here) in slightly revised form for a spring run originally scheduled to extend from February through June. However, that schedule has now been cut back, with the final performances slated for March 17.
If there ever were a version of Delusion that seemed likely to break free of the Halloween niche, The Blue Blade: The Director's Cut (as the new production is known) would seem to be it. With a lower age limit for attendance (13 and up), the production feels somewhat like a PG-13 installment of a previously R-rated film franchise, designed to reach a wider audience. Although there is a scare element (in the form of shadowy "Keepers" guarding the gateways of time), The Blue Blade: The Director's Cut is more rollicking science-fiction adventure than horror story, taking its audience of eight "Initiates" on a journey into the past that goes from occupied France in WWII to an ancient Mayan Temple, in search of the elusive Evelyn Lowell, who is using the titular object to travel time and alter the course of history.
Additionally, the story of The Blue Blade: The Director's Cut has been refined, with enhanced character motivation and a new ending that turns the play into a sort of prequel to its predecessors, suggesting an MCU-style shared universe. Delusion is always worth seeing more than once, because the forking-paths nature of the narrative (in which audience members are split up to experience different scenes separately) offers multiple unique experiences. The addition of new plot points should have made the resurrected show a must-see for fans. What happened?
Braver knew he was "rolling the dice" (as he told Variety back in October), but at the time he seemed confident that The Blue Blade: The Director's Cut could work during the spring. Asked about the gamble now, he responds:
"It was an experiment. The risk was the timing. I think interactive theatre can exist at anytime of the year. I think we are a bit of our own enemy, in that for years, we have been open in the fall. A lot of people don’t think about [us] this time of year. We just wanted to see if people were into it. Everybody who comes is super into it, but I don’t think I want to put the effort into the spring season again. There’s a magic to the fall season that is unmistakable. To sustain this kind of thing we’d need a bigger marketing budget."
Besides the marketing budget, The Blue Blade: The Director's Cut is difficult to sustain because it is the most ambitious Delusion production to date, with a 70-minute run time, a cast of 15, and some of the most elaborate sets, which took seven weeks to build, requiring the hiring of a professional scenic shop for the first time in Delusion's history.
"It took years off our lives," says Braver, who wrestled with the script's time-travel element for over twelve months, then further revised it for the spring revival. "It was a monumental bitch. It was the venue, the rent, and so many boring aspects to this that you don’t want to hear about. But basically it was a very difficult endeavor. It’s a grueling show. It’s live theatre but on a scale that keeps me awake a lot."
Back in October, when he spoke to Variety, Braver outlined a master plan to expand Delusion into a year-round franchise, including live shows, virtual reality, podcasts, and possible feature films or TV series. Though exhausted by trying to sustain a spring run of The Blue Blade: The Director's Cut, Braver remains sanguine about his other plans.
"I’m writing the Crimson Queen podcast now," he says. "It could be a cool old-school radio drama; it could be a really cool feature, too. I’m tired because of this show; live theatre is very exhausting - it's a non-stop thing. I’m anal about this stuff. I drive home, and I think about all these little things I can’t stop thinking about. Whereas filming stuff or something that’s recorded in some way is a lot easier for me. I just put it down, and it exists."
This means that Delusion will probably not become a year-round live theatrical event, even though Braver would like to revive some of the older productions for the benefit of fans who missed them the first time.
"I think we’re at a crossroads here, about whether there’s gonna be a year round Delusion," says Braver. "It goes back to what I was saying earlier about the magic of the fall season. This was a test. I think if we had a massive marketing budget for billboards, it might be a different story, but this still remains an underground, cultish thing - which a lot of people love, but you can’t really sustain a business like that. That’s the tough part: maintain the dignity and quality of what you do but also make a living. We took a chance with this whole thing; it was a big feat to do this. We’re gonna shift our schedule; we’re going to close March 17 instead of June. Then we’re going to focus on the next thing."
It is unfortunate that The Blue Blade: The Director's Cut will not be able to sustain itself through June. The alterations to the story line, though small in comparison to the show's overall length, represent notable improvements, and regardless of script revisions, the experience itself will be different because of casting changes, because of audience reactions, and because you will have opportunities to volunteer for actions you missed the first time: swinging across a river, clearing a room of poison gas, or - best of all - retrieving the elusive Blue Blade from its hiding place.
As Braver notes, "The second time you will absorb a lot more of the story - the character development, everything I am trying to tell you – so it will feel like a new show to you. There’s so many layers that you need to go through more than once."
The Blue Blade: The Director's Cut runs through March 17 at Fais DoDo. The address is 5257 W. Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90016142. Go to enterdelusion.com for more information.
More: Delusion: The Blue Blade