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The Order of the Golden Scribe: Initiation Tea

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Max Henry as Dennis and audience members in a scene from Shuai Chen and Arlo Howard’s “The Order of the Golden Scribe: Initiation Tea” at Caveat (Photo credit: Bronwen Sharp)

Scotty Bennett

Scotty Bennett, Critic

When one is interested in theater and has an urge to see something out of the ordinary, a trip to an immersive and interactive show is the thing to do. These shows are typically murder mysteries in which the audience members work as detectives to solve the crime. The events are always collaborative with the cast of characters and audience members. It makes the process more interesting than just sitting in a theater watching actors play out a story.

The Order of the Golden Scribe: Initiation Tea is an immersive and interactive theater experience co-created by Shuai Chen and Arlo Howard, who also directed. It combines a story about a secret society of historian scribes with a series of creatively challenging cryptographic puzzles. It is all wrapped up in an elaborate initiation “tea” for new members of the Order.

The initiation ceremony requires the initiates to prove themselves worthy of joining the Order by solving the puzzles. Each successful solution is rewarded with first tea, then finger sandwiches, followed by scones with jam and butter, and finally, a dessert. The puzzles are cleverly conceived and presented. The audience is divided into teams of four or five seated at café style tables.

A scene from Shuai Chen and Arlo Howard’s “The Order of the Golden Scribe: Initiation Tea” at Caveat (Photo credit: Bronwen Sharp)

Howard directs a cast of five in a well-tuned production that feels authentic. Four of the characters start the initiation with an orientation speech. These four people will be the guides for the various tables of initiates, each taking on the role of a dedicated member of the Order. The fifth character is an undercover journalist working to expose the Order as a power-hungry cult.

Sarah Sutliff is believable as Clio, ostensibly the leader of the group. There is no doubt that she is the one who appears to control the actions of the others. Max Henry is Dennis. He was the one assigned to my table of four. His interaction with us was always solidly in character, with some surprising developments as the ceremony moved on. Lauren Kneteman and Brian Alford were both solid in their portrayals, with Alford describing the newest and most ambitious member of the initiation group well. As an added dramatic element, there is tension between Henry’s character and Alford’s related to the latter’s efforts to minimize the former’s position in the Order. The fifth character, Zenith, a journalist, is skillfully played by Ella Raymont.

In addition to these fine actors seamlessly presenting their characters, they are also skilled at improvisation since there is no way to know the types of questions the various groups will ask. Giving answers on the fly that stay within the dramatic arc requires a well-tuned ensemble.

Audience members attempt to solve one of the puzzles in Shuai Chen and Arlo Howard’s “The Order of the Golden Scribe: Initiation Tea” at Caveat (Photo credit: Bronwen Sharp)

There is more to the initiation than just the puzzles and food. One member of each group is summoned to an area outside of the main room to meet with a shadowy woman doing research on the Order as being a cult with the goal of gaining political power. It is a clever device to increase audience participation by making them operatives in the secret project of an undercover journalist. Towards the end of the tea, each member of a puzzle-solving group will have met with the journalist and have a different piece of information to share to expose the Order’s nefarious plans.

The team involved in this show has done a superb job of making the entire experience enjoyable. Taking tea with The Order of the Golden Scribe is worth the time and effort.

I need to take the unusual step of acknowledging the entire team for their work in making this two-hour show so much fun. Supporting actors in the company are André Sguerra, Quinlan Pozner, and McKenna Parsons. The kitchen team comprises Julia Darden, Alex Johnson, Louella Estillero, and Nick Petrelli, with Darden and Johnson giving voice to two off-stage characters. The beautifully designed props and graphic design are the work of Nell Quinn-Gibney and Ali Mark.

The Order of the Golden Scribe: Initiation Tea (through March 30, 2024)

Patchwork Adventures

Caveat, 21A Clinton Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/cc/order-of-the-golden-scribe-2999599

Running time: two hours without an intermission

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Scotty Bennett
About Scotty Bennett (70 Articles)
Scotty Bennett is a retired businessman who has worn many hats in his life, the latest of which is theater critic. For the last twelve years he has been a theater critic and is currently the treasurer of the American Theatre Critics Association and a member of the International Association of Theatre Critics. He has been in and around the entertainment business for most of his life. He has been an actor, director, and stage hand. He has done lighting, sound design, and set building. He was a radio disk jockey and, while in college ran a television studio and he even knows how to run a 35mm arc lamp projector.

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