An immersive journey into childhood fears, “I want to live in your mouth” creates a mysterious world where things definitely live in the dark and, to be clear, they are coming for you.
The show is presented by David Ruzicka and Eric Vosmeier. (In association with OA Experiential, additional support from Hotopp Associates and Dan & Janelle Picard.) Both men are part of the creative team for JFI Productions (Creep and The Willows) as well as having experience in a variety of immersive event and theme park entertainment fields.
As a guest, you enter “I want to live in your mouth” alone. Your eyes adjust to the darkness – there is plenty of darkness – and you let the environment take hold. Shelves of books and toys surround you, artwork of a landscape that is both comforting and unsettling, a radio to play comforting music.
You hold a toy, place faith in it for it will keep you safe… or will it? What if your job is to keep the toy safe? What if you fail? What does this toy mean to you?
Almost immediately, a narrating voice lets you know that things are not quite as they seem. First of all, you are not alone. There is a guide as you travel this path, striking a balance between guardian and a mischievous friend. (There is an alternating cast including Curtis Tyrone Scott, Romeo Armand Seay and Terra Strong.) They are sharing the story of something that came to their childhood home, but let’s be honest… this is your journey and it’s creepy good fun!
Early on in this experience, there is a magical moment of quiet solitude where you can reflect on your own past. It is a universal moment each of us face. It is night and it is time to sleep… so what could go wrong? This simple moment, for me, is where the show really took hold. As an imaginative child, I always held the belief that darkness was never empty. Things live in the darkness of night. Your guide for the show tells you part of their story, but it is also your story. Things come out of the dark, sometimes. They take things from us or they shake our belief that the world is a safe place. As we grow older, we learn, of course, that safety is not guaranteed for anyone. It’s a harsh realization and “I want to live in your mouth” seems intent on reminding us it is truth.
A story unfolds as you travel through several dreamlike rooms where humans and creatures reside. The details of the narrative are vaguely threatening as things move around you. Shadows shift and footsteps follow you. You are being told of one child’s story, but it is relatable in some unfocused manner. Those moments when you make connections to memories and nightmares of your own are when this show really sinks its teeth into you.
Nightmares and dreams are tricky things. Intimately related, even intertwined with each other… fed by whatever we take in during our waking hours, that fuel is transformed into musings of the subconscious. What our minds do at night has been the focus of far greater minds than mine for centuries. I claim no deep insight into the inner workings of the human mechanism.
But, I know things about myself. The images or symbols that may emotionally tug at my heart or brain are different from anyone else, obviously. One of the greatest strengths of “I want to live in your mouth” is the ability for the participant to adapt their own private childhood boogeymen to this show’s very odd sense of space and time. There are moments where you encounter the citizens of the dark. A head turn reveals something near you, something with teeth. Your guide urges you forward so you can test your nerves as a creature dares you to interact with it. It all feels like a foggy memory or a dream you cannot recall in detail.
As wonderful as numerous moments are in the show, it is not perfect. Some may yearn for a clearer narrative, I’m sure. No clear story means you walk through this dream as if it were just that – a dream. Rarely do dreams satisfy us when we wake. They just are what they are. The lack of a strong linear story is most evident at the end of the show where there seems to be no clear resolution for you or your guide. I can see logically why the final moments unfold as they do, but I wanted something more definitive before light returned and I reentered my waking life. It’s a noticeable weakness but a small quibble for a fine show. There are plenty of creepy, delightful moments that make this journey worth exploring.
The strengths here are atmosphere and tone – the ability to transport each guest through a nightmare fantasy while connecting emotionally to real fears. There are definitely moments of fright, the occasional jump, but the thing that truly lingers is the atmosphere of a nightmare and the dread that comes from knowing you will return to the darkness… and there will be something waiting for you there.
“I want to live in your mouth” runs through May 5 in North Hollywood. Tickets available here.