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Party like it’s Gowanus 1973: Theater-goers are invited to a murder mystery event

for The Brooklyn Paper
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A macabre mafia rules the roost in a new play where a throng of ghoulish, risen-from-the-dead raver-girls lead the audience from scene to scene throughout the building, serving cocktails (yes, cocktails!) as the story unfolds.

It’s up to the crowd to piece the information together as they go along — and not get sidetracked with the drinks.

The goal is to make theatre something people want to do on a Friday night, said company Ugly Rhino artistic director Danny Sharron — and the liquor just lubricates the process.

“Everything [Ugly Rhino does] involves drinking: a party, a DJ, some sort of social thing,” said Sharon. “It’s never just like ‘come see a play.’ ”

In March, Ugly Rhino’s boozy “Centralia” sold out the Brooklyn Lyceum every night, even after adding extra shows to keep up with demand.

So for those who want more standing-up theater, with a splash of booze on the side, the Gowanus-based experimental theater group’s “Warehouse of Horrors: Gowanus ’73” may be just the ticket. The production at the Lyceum is part murder mystery night, part “Sleep No More,” and part dance party.

Viewers become active participants in the petrifying plot, which spins a complex and murderous web involving a madam and her prostitutes, drug dealers and crooked cops, mafiosos and maniacs, all scripted to take place in the Lyceum as it was 40 years ago: a derelict haven of 1970s drugs and debauchery.

“There seems to be this desire, or need for [participatory theater,]” Sharron said. “Especially in Brooklyn, audiences like feeling like they’re a part of the event; it’s a shame to just ignore the people [in the audience.]”

With “Gowanus ’73,” Ugly Rhino means to scare — this is no grown-up Scooby-Doo.

“The idea is for it to be psychologically thrilling. We are trying to create this sense of impending doom, to can scare you [with] the truth and humanity of it — yes, there’s a madam or a mafia boss, but they’re real people,” Sharron said.

“Warehouse of Horrors: Gowanus ’73” at Brooklyn Llyceum [227 Fourth Avenue, (718) 857–4816 www.uglyrhinonyc.com]. Oct. 12–Nov. 1, $20.

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