It’s not everyday that you get to help solve a murder case, interview a drag queen, or be transported to another era. But that’s what you’re in for with the interactive show The Lombardi Case, brought to us by the NY-based Live in Theater group. I had the chance to go the premiere in May and here’s what it was like.
When I stepped into the theater, I was first greeted by a cop with a Brooklyn accent, played by a Scotsman; and then grabbed a seat among the 60-person international audience. We got split into small teams and an officer presented us with the case details in effortless Spanglish.
It’s suddenly the early 1980’s and we’re in the midst of Madrid’s sex- and drug-ridden La Movida movement. The daughter of the US ambassador has just been murdered. And it’s on us to find out who did it.
Readily equipped with clues, a map and a list of suspects – from a doorman to a junky – we headed out onto the streets to conduct our interviews at nearby locations like a jazz bar, public plaza and street corner; and then came back and tried to solve the case with our findings.
The 7-member bilingual cast relied heavily on improv to communicate with us as we interrogated them, and they impressively stayed in character the whole time.
Although none of us ended up solving the tricky case, it was a really fun and unique experience, with lots of laughter and participation between the actors and audience. I loved being able to play an active role in the show, get out there on the street, interact with new team members and in Spanglish, no less. All in all, it’s a guaranteed great time and as a benefit you’ll get to learn about the history of Madrid.
Since the debut, Live in Theater has put on two more productions of the The Lombardi Case in the heart of Malasaña at La Industrial. While the format is identical to the NYC show, the storyline has been adapted to Madrid’s history. For example, the original takes place in 1975 which works in a time of drugs, disco and gentrification in NYC, while the Madrid show takes place in the early ‘80s during the time of La Movida, the experimental movement that broke out after the fall of the Franco regime. This is especially pertinent as audience members get to actually interview suspects in the neighborhood that was the epicenter of the movement, Malasaña. Another key difference is that here, the show is put on in Spanish and English.
The Lombardi Case has been brought to Madrid by three partners: Carlo D’Amore, the founder (and guru) of the NYC-based theater group, Live in Theater; Leslie Freschet, who’s been living in Madrid for 25 years; and Benjamin Nathan-Serio, who’s been an active member of Barcelona and Madrid’s English-speaking theater circuit for nearly a decade. He’s also one of the Madrid organizers and co-founders of Mad Improv.
A few weeks ago I had the chance to sit down with Ben and talk about the Lombardi Case and what makes interactive theater so special. He said:
The show offers a truly unique experience for the audience because interactive is empowering. It’s a real niche for actual human, genuine interaction. There’s something magical about this show. It’s not just conversation in a bar or speed dating, or meet-ups; it’s super empowering because you become a cop. You have a mission. You become a detective. There’s a murder, and you need to solve it! And there’s a time limit… urgency.
See a show!
You can also book them for private events such as company team-building exercises. The show has a very versatile format – you can hire them to go into your apartment as long as it has 2 rooms, with 3 actors playing 6 characters; and it can also be presented to up to 200 people.
And if you feel like getting more involved in Madrid’s interactive theater scene, definitely check out Mad Improv which holds free improv workshops on Sundays and monthly performances.