Spoilers below, and they are marked.
Oh Jon Braver, you nasty minx. How is it that when I walk into one of your shows I know it’s yours?
Is it something to do with the atmosphere that you create? Perhaps the lighting? The audio cues? What is it, Jon?! What is your secret sauce?
Braver and his team have been leading the pack in Southern California’s immersive scene since he rented out an old mansion in 2011 and wrought “Delusion” into this world. Each show he comes out with is impressive on several levels, but to boil it down his shows are as close as one can get to being in your own action-adventure movie.
When asked to describe what makes his work so good, Braver praises his technical team for their immense talents. He credits the actors for bringing the story to life. He cites himself as the mad jester of this world he has created, joking (joking?) that it’s the team he has surrounded himself that has to put up with him.
Whatever it is, “Delusion” is consistently good. But being more than consistently good, it feels like “Delusion”. It’s hard for an immersive theater company to have a distinct feel, and “Delusion” pulls it off beautifully.
The latest iteration is “Alt Delete”, which builds on the world that was created in 2018’s “The Blue Blade”, which was an Indiana-Jones-meets-Time-Travel kind of vibe. Braver describes “Alt Delete” as that little bonus scene at the end of a Marvel film: a coda to the story.
“Alt Delete” welcomes you to 1982. You have been sent there to solve a mystery.
Call it an escape room, if you must. One clue leads to another, and another, and it keeps going until you burst out of the room and back into the present day.
But it’s the details that set it apart. It’s the details that make it so good.
The set design is outstanding, putting you in a world of cassette tapes and floppy disks and 1980’s computers. It’s the soundtrack that pumps through the whole thing. It’s the freakin’ lasers you have to manipulate to solve a puzzle.
There are things that I found that didn’t work. There were puzzles that were muddy and confusing to even know where to start (which is something that frustrates me about escape rooms, in general) and my team needed the help of the “Alt Delete” staff to show us the way.
SPOILERS: Early on we were given a mission — delete files on a computer — but as soon as you get into the room you meet a “guide” who pushes you in the complete opposite way. After talking to the staff afterwards it was confirmed that indeed that’s the way the story was written. It’s confusing to be given a mission and then to be pushed into doing the complete opposite of the mission for the story to play out. I wonder if other people felt this way, too.
When I get an opportunity to go back to the show I’m going to do my damnedest to delete those files and see what happens and how the story responds to my push-back. END OF SPOILERS.
I went early in the run, and I know the team has been tweaking the show as they watch people go through it, so I’m curious to see if these issues have been resolved. Perhaps I’m speaking too soon…
But Jon Braver, you nasty minx. Look at this world you’ve created!!!!
You can find the show at The Dragon and Meeple, a tabletop gaming bar and restaurant across the street from USC, which adds to the fun of it all. Tabletop gaming bars are yet another example of how much we yearn for social interaction. Cell phones and computers — no matter how much “social” they promise, are still us staring at screens. As humans we need tangible, face-to-face experiences, and the resurgence of board games is a shining example of this.
Immersive theater, and especially done on this high of a level, is well worth seeking out.
Grab a beer, open up a game, and let Jon Braver and his crazy world pull you in.