THEATER REVIEW: “The Illusionists” @ Playhouse Square by Roy Berko

 

Tue 1/7-Sat 1/11

Sword swallowing, escaping from a vat of sand while handcuffed, inserting a needle through the tongue, trying to figure out which cup contains a hidden pea, card tricks, changing water to wine, putting a sword through a trunk while a woman contortionist is inside and remains uncut, and mind reading are just some of the illusions, tricks or magic which are presented by the performers who make up the cast of The Illusionists: Live from Broadway, now appearing onstage at the Connor Palace.

The production, which features a rotating cast of magicians who present on stage illusions, escapology and comedy magic using not only their own assistants, but “volunteers” from the audience, is aimed to please audiences of all ages.

The show premiered at the Sydney (Australia) Opera House on January 12, 2012 and has gone on to appear in such places as Kuwait, Mexico, China, England, Dubai, much of Europe and on Broadway.   The troupe is now on a nationwide tour, with a five-day stop in Cleveland.

The international cast includes Valentin Azema (The Elusive), Dizzy (The Trickster), Jonathan Goodwin (The Daredevil), Stuart MacLeod (The Delusionist), Florian Sainvet (The Manipulator), Sos & Victoria (The Transformationalists), and Steve Valentine (The Showman). Each has a magic specialty.

One of the highlights of the opening night performance took place when two pre-arranged volunteers were brought on stage. At the conclusion of a delightful give-and-take between the master of ceremonies and the young ladies, one dropped to her knee, removed a small black box from her pocket, and, to shrieks of delight and affirmation from the audience, asked her companion to marry her. Of course, the answer was “yes.”

The engaged duo were not the only audience participants. By various means and schemes, audience members played the foils in many of the activities.

The stage actions were enhanced by the presence of camera close-ups projected onto a large on-stage screen, ensuring that card tricks and slight-of-hand activities were easy for everyone in the audience to see.

Capsule judgment: Though many aspects of the show were very entertaining, the overall effect was underwhelming. It seemed in many segments, that the cast has done these same tricks over and over, and were on automatic pilot.  

The Illusionists Live From Broadway appears at the Connor Palace from January 7-11. For tickets call 216-241-6000 or go to playhousesquare.org.

[Written by Roy Berko. Member: Cleveland Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association, International Theatre Critics Association]

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