Chicago Theatre Review
A Story of Love and Loss
The Magic Play – Goodman Theatre
From a show bearing such a title, audiences will arrive expecting to see astounding prestidigitation, impossible trickery and amazing feats of illusion. In this, theatergoers will not be disappointed in the least. What they may not expect is the magic that quietly seeps from Andrew Hinderaker’s spellbinding story onto the stage and into the audience. This talented playwright has crafted a three-character play that spins a heartfelt story of love and loss that, taking away all the magic tricks, is as universal, thought-provoking and gut-wrenching as any modern classic.
A talented young illusionist, superbly portrayed by actor/magician Brett Schneider, opens his live magic act, creating wonder, awe and astounding moments of “How did he do that?” Involving actual audience volunteers in his act, this young performer, whose credo is that the magician must always be in charge of his show, suddenly begins to crumble before our eyes. His private life has just unraveled as, only hours prior to this performance, his lover has left him.
Known only as The Diver, and tautly played by Sean Parris, this buff, young Olympics-bound aquatic athlete is brutally honest with the young Magician. He confronts his illusionist boyfriend, challenging him to give up his absolute domination over every single thing in his personal life. The Magician’s total mastery of his art demands nothing less than perfection, and this obsession is carried into everything he privately does, as well. He also forces the Magician to seek out and reunite with his estranged Father, an older magician, beautifully played by veteran Chicago actor Francis Guinan, who now works in second-rate casinos. He walked out on his wife and left the younger Magician when he was just a boy. Bitter resentment mixed with curiosity and a fathomless feeling of loss finally bring the two together, during which time the Magician teaches the Father some new tricks that go beyond the realm of magic.
Developed as part of a co-commission between the Goodman and New York’s Roundabout Theatres, Andrew Hinderaker’s play was seen Off-Broadway, after appearing two years ago in Goodman’s New Stages Festival. This is the play’s world premiere and is unlike anything seen before, especially at the Goodman. It’s slick, polished and speaks to the very heart of what it means to be human, to give and receive love and to let relinquish some control in a relationship.
Much of the credit for this exquisite production goes to the Goodman design staff. Lizzie Bracken’s deceptively simple scenic design meshes well with the projections by John Boesche and attention-focusing lighting by Maggie Fullilove-Nugent. Director Halena Kays has kept the piece on edge and constantly moving toward its poignant conclusion. Despite Brett Schneider’s expertise as a professional magician, she’s enlisted the wizardry and magical designs of Jim Steinmeyer to create the full illusion.
This wonderful play, which combines the wonders of a polished magic act with the magic that occurs within the human heart, is a jaw-dropping, pulse-racing drama generously seasoned with comedy and loads of mind-boggling magic. While not for younger audiences (Hinderaker’s script contains certain adult themes and is unnecessarily awash with profanity), this magnificent play is surprisingly entertaining and moving. In the end, it’s the play, and not the illusions, that offers the audience the real magic.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented October 21-November 20 by The Goodman Theatre in the Owen Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago.
Tickets are available in person at the Goodman box office, by calling them at 312-443-3800, or by going to www.GoodmanTheatre.org/Magic.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.