The "Speakeasy Dollhouse," a Prohibition-era interactive play by Cynthia von Buhler, is puzzling. It’s a participatory work of theater, a whodunit and an unsolved mystery. Audience members are encouraged to study evidence before experiencing the play, which is set in a speakeasy (based on a previously constructed dollhouse set). Most importantly, it’s based on a true story: Von Buhler created "Speakeasy Dollhouse" to try and solve the mystery of her grandfather's unexplained murder, almost a century ago.
"My grandparents, the Spanos, came to this country from Italy during the Roaring Twenties. They opened two speakeasies in the Bronx: one masquerading as a bakery, and the other one a secret nightclub. Shortly after Prohibition ended, my grandfather was shot and killed on the street in Manhattan. My grandmother was pregnant with my mother at the time, and upon hearing the news of the murder, she went into a coma. When her husband's coffin was dropped on the way up the narrow stairs of their apartment building, my grandmother woke up – and went into labor. On the same day, my mother was born in one room of the small Bronx apartment while her father's body was laid out in a coffin in another.
Nobody still living in my family knew why my grandfather was shot. Nothing was known about the killer, his motive, or a trial. My grandmother took these secrets to her grave. And so, over the past two years, I have been researching this complicated mystery.”
The "Speakeasy Dollhouse" is an inspired and unique mission, and the period aesthetics of the set are also begging to be admired. In fact, von Buhler was featured on the Discovery Channel show “Oddities,” on which she hired two antique dealers to find her a gurney and some surgical tools from the ‘30s (now centerpieces of the show).
Located on New York’s Lower East Side in von Buhler’s art studio, the creepy-cool immersive play has added additional dates due to increased demand. So nab your tickets here!