Originally intended to be a one-night-only event, Speakeasy Dollhouse will kick off its new season in February 2013, once again bringing an actual unsolved Prohibition-era murder to life in the downtown building that once served as mobster Meyer Lansky's hangout. Replete with live jazz by Howard Fishman and his band, burlesque dancers, and real moonshine, the production offers up a meticulously detailed slice of New York City history on the first Monday and Saturday of each month.
The experience begins with a series of emails featuring actual 1935 news articles, court documents, and autopsy reports. Audience members also receive special instructions to show up dressed for a 1930's night on the town at a secret address, including the password they will need to enter. Upon arrival, are each audience member is assigned a role or task which can range from passing notes to key characters to aiding in an autopsy. Once inside, they discover a perfect replica of a speakeasy, where they eat cannoli, play cards with gangsters, sip hooch disguised in coffee cups, enjoy burlesque performances - and witness a shooting, funeral, murder investigation, and trial.
Each month's show explores a different motive behind the murder, from jealousy over a suspected affair to a Mafia hit. As audience members meander through a speakeasy bar, a private alleyway, a bakery, and more, they are privy to conversations and whispered bits of gossip from cast members about the victim's marital infidelities, mob connections, and other clues. The piece is constantly evolving based on new scenarios sparked by spontaneous interactions between cast members and guests, who are encouraged to become full-fledged participants in the unfolding drama. Von Buhler is using discoveries and research culled from the performances for a book she is writing on the murder.