There isn’t really any way to spoil The Willows, an ambitious new immersive theater experience set in a sprawling mansion in the Country Club Park neighborhood of L.A.
Produced by Justin Fix and his Just Fix It Productions team, the masterminds behind the annual haunted house CreepLA — which has drawn the likes of Anna Kendrick, James Franco, Billie Lourd, and Vanessa Hudgens — The Willows couches itself within the whodunit mystery dinner theater (Clue, for instance) and the sinister family secret horror microgenre. The gang’s all here: the domineering matriarch, the developmentally disabled youngster, the lewd uncle, etc.
It's 9:30 on a warm summer night and I'm standing at the corner of Olympic and Fourth Street in Koreatown. There's a shadowy figure down the sidewalk, lit by a lantern. I greet him and am met with a monotonal "Name?" He checks me off a list and tells me to join a small group of strangers standing nearby. Moments later, a passenger van pulls up and we are blindfolded and told not to speak. During our short journey, we receive instructions for our dinner with The Willows, an immersive theatrical experience running through July.
We don’t know your family.
We only hope your meals together are less dysfunctionally enjoyable than this one.
You’re cordially invited to the Willows, a fully immersive, fully creepy dinner party with light scares, major psychological weirdness and sufficient bourbon. Tickets for July’s dates will go live and go fast starting Wednesday. Slideshow time.
It’s an interactive experience from Creep LA, who typically materialize in October to freak everybody out with strong productions. This one’s different, played out over a night of dining, drinking and mingling with a peculiar clan in their beautiful Hancock Park home.
What exactly is The Willows? Is it a haunt? No, not really. Is it an escape room? No, you will not escape unless the members of the Willows family allow you to escape. Is it a play? Close. Brought to you by JFI Productions (CreepLA), The Willows is an interactive theater experience, which means that the show is going on all around you at all times. There is no audience. You have a part to play. You will be front and center in a mystery that only you can help solve. You will have to uncover the secrets of The Willows.
In a sprawling, old house just south of Koreatown, a new immersive theater piece unfolds.
A mere 18 audience members at a time are invited to have dinner with the Willows, a peculiar family so full of dark secrets and thinly veiled resentments it’s a wonder they manage to share a ZIP code let alone one roof.
Guests actually do eat with the family—the meal includes cheese, charcuterie, bread and vegan potato soup.
It was sunset as I was arriving in a delightful neighborhood to check out a new horror interactive theatrical experience, The Willows. It’s produced by JFI Productions, the creative minds behind Creep Los Angeles. I was then given an address for parking, with an email instructing me to meet with a gentleman. Soon our small group quickly filled up to 12 people. We all had no idea what to expect, and this is coming from a guy who went to JFI Productions’ Creep Los Angeles shows.
What happens when the makers of LA’s creepiest haunt deconstruct the murder mystery dinner?
From the creators of Creep LA — this writer’s personal favorite haunt of 2016 — comes The Willows, a 2.5-hour immersive theater piece set within the sinister secrets of the eponymous family. And when we say immersive, we mean it. Audience members will be fully engaged with multiple characters, and may find themselves having an entirely different experience than even those they came with.
There is so much to say about Creep LA's newest production, THE WILLOWS, and, yet I can barely capture the words needed to pump out this review. For me, THE WILLOWS has forever changed what an immersive experience should be. It was satisfying, it was sensual, and, in short, it was personal.
Let me make this very clear right off the bat; you need to see The Willows.
Over the weekend, I was invited to check out a dress rehearsal for this brand new show from the twisted minds that brought us Creep Los Angeles the past two years. Despite the fact that it was called a ‘dress rehearsal’ and that the crew constantly said it was not at 100% completion yet, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that The Willows is going to blow your mind and change the way you see and experience immersive theater...
For the past two years, CreepLA has been one of my favorite immersive experiences. Whether I’m in a bar surrounded by characters with hidden pasts and dark secrets, or in a small intimate closet being interrogated by a man who does not speak English, CreepLA always finds the perfect way to make me feel uneasy. They don’t rely on typical scares; instead they create an atmosphere to make the audience wonder what’s hidden deeper. It’s this sense of dread of the unknown that is their specialty...