Spend Some Time Locked In a Room With a Zombie

The only way out is to solve a series of puzzles.

Imagine being locked inside of a room without the key while a zombie, chained to a wall nearby, slowly creeps closer toward you as the time on a clock ticks away. Gradually, the monster comes within reaching distance, the slack on the chain loosening every so often, as you frantically try to map your escape.

That’s the premise behind a new “Murder Mystery Theater”-like production set up in Charlestown, where teams of people are tasked with relying on each other’s problem-solving skills to figure out a series of riddles so they can locate the key to their freedom, before the undead breaks free. “The catch is, every five minutes a buzzer goes off and the zombie is released another few feet, and at the end of the hour, the zombie’s able to reach all the participants in the room,” said actress Michelle Sisco, who helps run “Trapped in a Room With a Zombie.”

The interactive theater performance, which is now in 10 cities across the country, came to Boston in May, and since then has hosted shows for large groups of friends looking for an alternative to a night at the movies, and companies trying to strengthen communication skills between coworkers. “One of the main purposes of this is to use it as a team building exercise,” she said. “Or just a casual outing.”

Comparing the program to reality TV shows like Fear Factor or The Amazing Race, where participants have to race against the clock and quickly plough through a series of mind-bending conundrums, Room Escape Adventures, the company that runs the zombie challenge, says the excitement and adrenaline gets people to think critically under pressure. The shows generally run on a limited basis throughout the weekends, but the company also takes specific requests for weekday events if a company is trying to plan an outing for employees.

The scenarios for each individual event vary depending on who the actor or actress is, Sisco said, and some zombies are “definitely scarier” than others. “Every actor has a different spin on it. Mine’s very energetic, very high energy,” she said. “Without giving too much away, the zombie will try to go after people. The way that a zombie will kill the participants, if you get too close, they will reach out and grab them.”

Performers also take on the role of an observer, making sure that those locked in the room don’t break any rules, and clearing out their bodies if they come in contact with the undead. She said while the exercise might sound easy, the success rate for getting everybody out of the room alive has been low. “It’s only about 33 percent,” she said. “Solving the puzzles relies on people with different types of logical reasoning skills, mathematical skills, and visual skills. It’s good when you have enough people in the room because you get to watch each person with a different strength.”

Sisco wouldn’t provide photos or reveal how the room is set up, but she said since the production company made its way to Boston last month, the weekend shows have been packed due to popularity. “People really seem to be enjoying it,” she said. “I have learned there are as many ways to solve a problem as there are problem solvers. It’s fascinating to me to see how people will try and figure out a particular clue.”

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