Review by Brittany Crowell
The Order of the Golden Scribe is a high tea ceremony, where you and various sibling scribes who have been hand-selected for initiation into the order are required to complete a series of puzzles over your multi-course tea in order to eventually gain membership to this secretive and influential organization.
What is the Order of the Golden Scribe? It’s an old society which prides itself on maintaining “one vision, one story” from many pens. As with most ancient cults, there’s something a little creepy and secretive about the order and whilst you sip your tea and eat your scones, you are also asked to unravel the additional puzzle of what this society is wheeling and dealing behind closed doors.
The Order of the Golden Scribe: Initiation Tea is being remounted at Nancy Manocherian’s the cell theatre after an initially sold-out run in February. The piece by Shuai Chen and Arlo Howard features a series of puzzles just baffling enough to incite a spark of joy when you unlock your jam for scones and four expert improvisers who have been educated in the world and the ways of the Scribe and whom the audience is encouraged to interact with, either when they stop by the table to check in, or, as my fellow table-mate did, when you request more hot water to ask specifically prying questions in order to discover what lies beneath the surface.
The tea itself is simple and enjoyable. There are a selection of teas to choose from and a nice array of small sandwiches as well. The scones are small though delicious, their smell wafting into the room as you begin to solve the puzzle that will beckon them towards your table. The dessert, however, is perhaps more delightful in reveal than reality as our table struggled to understand how to properly move forward with eating the small bag of granola, cup of fruits, and cookies.
Each audience experience of the show is unique. Guests are invited to engage with the experience as much as they like: from flagging down the scribes to ask them about their lineage, to sitting back and watching the story unfold while enjoying your tea and your puzzles. Guests are seated at tables of four and invited to chat with their fellow tea-sippers, with a “get-to-know-you” question that starts the performance. My guest and I were lucky to be sitting with a very charming couple who we enjoyed getting to know almost as much as we enjoyed the performance and who were eager to engage in the theatricality of it all. On the other hand, there was an audience member at our performance who was perhaps too eager to engage and revealed certain narrative secrets to the cast of characters. Luckily, the production team was prepared for the likes of this and were able to shift into an alternate ending, taking into account the new information that was unexpectedly revealed.
The Order of the Golden Scribe: Initiation Tea is the perfect way to spend an afternoon with a friend, a partner, a group of four, or even perhaps a competitive office outing looking to drink some tea, solve some puzzles, and play at the larger game of understanding the Order itself. Catch it before it closes on June 4th!
THE ORDER OF THE GOLDEN SCRIBE: Initiation Tea
Created by – Shuai Chen and Arlo Howard
Directed by – Arlo Howard
Produced by Patchwork Adventures, in collaboration with Nancy Manocherian’s the cell theatre
At Nancy Manocherian’s the cell theatre (338 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10011)
Run time: 90 minutes to 2 hours THROUGH JUNE 4TH