Immersive holiday shows in Chicago usually mean Halloween fare—haunted houses lend themselves naturally to the form, after all. But Chicago Immersive makes its inaugural bow with a family-friendly Hanukkah show so ecumenical in appeal it even takes place in a Lutheran church basement. Part scavenger hunt, part history lesson, part time-traveling adventure, the show involves a search for a menorah that belonged to the family of Grace (Nicole Bloomsmith), a contemporary woman who has only photos (and the audience) to help her piece together the puzzle of what happened to the beloved artifact, which disappeared around the time her great-grandparents left Germany ahead of Hitler.
The conceit for the show (created by Anderson Lawfer, Bloomsmith, Becca Braun, and director Jacqueline Stone) is that Grace’s husband, Irving (Lawfer), is also a sheriff from the 1800s, whose time-traveling knight friend from the Middle Ages, Cyrus (Julian Stroop), will take us into the past through a series of cunning rooms (designed by John Wilson). Here, we must listen for clues in order to unlock a series of hidden boxes guiding us to where the menorah is. Along the way, we meet Grace’s daughter and her rabbi wife, who give us thumbnail lessons on the meaning of Hanukkah; Mildred (Bloomsmith) and Jonathan (Andrew Bailes), her great-grandparents, as they wait in a “safe room” in Germany before fleeing the country; and her vaudevillian grandfather, Eli (Dan Cobbler), as he warms up for his Catskills act in the 1950s.
The show unfolds in just under an hour, and the lessons of listening to each other and working together (whether as a family or as an audience bent on solving a mystery) have applications beyond the holiday season. And at the end, there’s a delicious little nosh of latkes. v