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Are you looking for an out-of-the-ordinary theater experience? Do you want to spend time in a historical hotel you probably didn’t know existed? The Grift at the Lafayette Hotel is the perfect activity for theater lovers and non-theater goers alike. Spend two hours laughing, learning about cons, make friends with strangers, and then see how well you can think on your feet, solve clues, and catch a bad guy.
The Grift was created by Tom Salamon, known for his previous interactive theater work, Accomplice. Accomplice came to San Diego in 2013 after years of success in New York and other large cities. The Grift, on the other hand, was written specifically for The Lafayette Hotel. The charming old-fashioned 1920s hotel is in a part of town not many tourists would run across. Located on El Cajon Blvd and Louisiana, The Lafayette is on a busy street next to out-of-date supply stores, gas stations and fast food drive throughs. All of that noise fades away as soon as you walk through the doors. From the pianno in the lounge to the rooms all wrapped around a relaxing pool, the hotel has a cozy lived-in feel that just screams staycation.
While Accomplice took place all around Little Italy, The Grift takes place only at The Lafayette. The Grift’s single location make for a more intimate and faster-paced story. The hotel is truly the main character.
I won’t spoil too many details as this experience thrives on the small winks and nods to a hotel history they’ve elaborately created. When my husband, Kevin, and I arrived to check in, we were given red wrist bands. The whole audience, maxed out at 50 people, is only together for the beginning of the show and then everyone breaks up into smaller color-coordinated groups of six. This size grouping is perfect for interactive theater because it allows everyone the ability to participate and really feel like part of the story.
Once the introduction was over we were given a map, five boxes with combination locks, and directions to our first meeting place. At each location we met a different character. We learned about pulling short-cons and solved clues to open each box, which lead to more details about the characters and their family backstories.
Each character has a distinct personality; the too-cool bartender, the manic archivist, and my favorite, the overly P.C. pool boy. The pool attendant had his surfer bro voice down pat and his insistance on being politically correct to the point of absurdism brought some of the biggest laughs of the day.
The actors are all superb. They have to be master improvisors since every group will inevitably react differently to the clues and con games. The actors also have to keep the story moving forward by helping us solve the clues in a timely manner without being too pushy or getting too involved, all while staying in character.
I spent Superbowl Sunday a beautiful San Diego landmark, getting to play a con-woman, a lookout, a hotel guest, a high-stakes investor, and a wealthy art buyer. I was grouped with incredibly friendly people who impressed me with their clue solving skills and their quick wit. The Grift is a thoroughly exciting and inventive show that I can’t recommend enough.
The Grift is playing now through March 22nd and you can buy tickets here. I can’t wait to hear about your experience.