I was wheeled down a corridor to a stairwell. As I got up, the nurse looked at me earnestly and whispered the words I’d heard in that room: “You can never return to Manderley again, but sometimes, in my dreams, I return to those strange days.”
And then she kissed me.
I’d spent less than half an hour in the world of “Sleep No More” and had whiplashed from excitement to confusion, from fear to apprehension to . . . the sweetness of a kiss.
Suddenly, it didn’t feel quite so scary.
(Still, I vowed I wouldn’t be caught alone again.)
At the top of the stairs was a sign for the King James Infirmary Psychiatric Ward — in a long room lit only by bedside lamps were rows of iron beds. There was a low droning sound as I wandered through ... cases of specimen bottles . . . a bathroom full of claw-foot tubs, one filled with bloody water. Now the Ink Spots were crooning “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano,” and, past a velvet curtain, I entered a vast forest of barren trees, bathed in an eerie blue light. Around a bend was a stuffed white mountain goat, staring, waiting. I passed a padlocked wrought-iron gate (straight out of “Rebecca”). Other sights: a laundry room with stiffened clothes stretched into human form. A nightgown and a pair of pajamas were frozen in a waltz.
Everywhere: crucifixes, religious statuary, candles and clocks. Spiritual talismans and markers of time.
Another floor is laid out like a bygone streetscape, with rows of storefronts outfitted in wonderfully decrepit detail. There’s a candy shop (intrepid audience members are reaching into jars and eating the sweets) and a display of sewing notions, thimbles arranged on the walls as if in some kind of binary code. You wind through an alleyway piled with crates and discover a life-size Madonna, blue eyes cracked and weathered. Another cramped shop holds every kind of taxidermy imaginable, rats and rattlers posed in violent dioramas of the hunted and the hungry.
And what of “Macbeth”? Shakespeare’s bloody chronicle of regicide is loosely fragmented here. I spot a crowd and slip through it to see a bald man, naked and bloody, taking a shower while a metronome ticks loudly. Dripping, agitated and gasping, he pulls on his socks, trousers, shirt — and abruptly thrusts his vest at me. I toss it back. He dashes from the room.