Night Run

Northwest Mystery Theater, 1-800-820-NWMT, Thursdays and Saturdays through October, $33

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The problem with contemporary theater is that it doesn't let you pretend to be a spy. Finally, that problem has been rectified, thanks to Northwest Mystery Theater's Night Run.

Night Run isn't quite a play, just as it isn't really a game--it's both, with the result feeling like a cross between interactive theater and a scavenger hunt. It begins with you receiving an email that informs you of a downtown meeting place and a code phrase. Just like in old spy films, someone approaches you and says something (like, "The moon is shining bright this evening"), to which you respond (with, say, "Indeed, but the wise eagle flies only at midnight"). You're then given an envelope with instructions, and within a few minutes, you've met up with other Night Run participants. Your group is soon hitting spots all over downtown, trying to track down "agents" and put together clues in order to save a hostage.

There are top-secret documents and plot twists (some of which are lame, some of which are not), but the coolest part is that the game allows for plenty of ambiguity and paranoia. You'll need to figure out who to trust--and who to suspect--among the performers, but that suspicion easily spreads to your fellow spies.

(It's a no-brainer that whomever you're set up with in your group can make or break the experience. I showed up alone, and found out at the end that my loner status had made my two-faced fellow spies secretly decide I was a double agent. Meanwhile, I had more than a few doubts about a sketchy old woman in the group who called herself "Glenda" and seemed a little bit too into the whole thing. It turned out, however, that she really was named Glenda, and she just really liked pretending to be a spy.)

If there's anything to criticize about Night Run, it's that often the clues and directions you receive seem arbitrary, and the vague espionage story is largely ineffectual. Night Run never really convinces you that you're a spy on a life-or-death mission--but then again, you'll probably be having enough fun pretending to be one that you won't care. ERIK HENRIKSEN