Play on Queen is the first level of the infamous Wicked . (Second floor is for members only.) If Wicked is Lust in Dante's inferno, Play is perfect as its predecessor, Limbo — seeing as Play is all damnation without actual guilt. One doesn't need to partake, but is still subjected to the cornball, fake-sexy vibe it oozes.
The burly, suited men hissing into their earpieces, over-the-clipboard frowning and velvet ropes struck me as overkill, seeing as it was nearly empty. (Illusion is everything in this business, I suppose.) In light of its ceremonial entrance, the card-carrying members of Model Mayhem bar staff, and the lingerie-wearing blow-up doll by the coat-check, the lukewarm reception wasn't just jarring; it was laughable. The space is stylish in a early 2000s, television New York kind of way; Blair Waldorf would've lost her virginity here back when audiences still cared. Play is big and pristine — its apparent cleanliness I can wholeheartedly endorse — but its all-white minimalism just served to highlight how sterile it was in comparison to the debauchery it promises.
Play does try its hardest to encourage bad behaviour, but not enough. A runway serves as the divide between the 'VIP' section, allowing many a sashay down the catwalk. There are actual swings hanging from the ceiling that's a not-so-subtle reminder to what's going on upstairs. (Play would do well in getting some form of insurance; falling off the thing seems probable for any sober person, let alone a drunk one.)
I take back what I said about Play being an eyesore. Think whatever you like about Wicked: it's still an institution that's long been a part of West Queen West, and ought to be respected for not only surviving, but defining the city's underbelly.
Has Play lived up to the venue's name? Sure, but only in ways that underline the amateurishness of it all. Much like an apartment decorated entirely in IKEA, Play serves more as a child's idea of a grown-up space rather than actually being one. (The furniture giant looks like it could've sponsored the place, actually.) By your typical club's standards, Play falls short due to its sheer genericness. Even its "swingers' paradise" of a neighbour couldn't save it from itself.
Editor's Note : An earlier version of this post mistakenly claimed that Play was not affiliated with Wicked, when in fact, it is a rebranded version of the first floor of said club. We apologize for the error and have updated the review accordingly.