In Play Reviews

Love, loss, and magic mix it up in Andrew Hinderaker‘s The Magic Play which opened March 9 on Portland Center Stage at the Armory’s Mainstage.

Directed by Halena Kays, The Magic Play is a theatrical hybrid. It begins as a magic show. A very good magic show. Ask the members of the audience who volunteered to be The Magician’s (Brett Schneider) helpers on stage. They trusted him. And so did the audience.

Brett Schneider (left) and Sean Parris in The Magic Play, onstage now at Portland Center Stage.

Probably not a good idea. The Magician has any number of tricks up his sleeve.

But, being a hybrid, this show is not just about magic. The Magician lives with his painful past, a backstory that he attempts to resolve during the course of the play, and a current and unsettling love affair. His life is literally a house of cards.

Magic is illusion. It’s about keeping secrets in plain sight. Unfortunately, so, often is love. You will have to be the judge here as we jump between captivating magic show and equally engrossing love story. Schneider shines both as a magician and an actor.

To me, the juxtaposition of the The Magician’s magic show and his love relationship was never a distraction. Rather, they enhanced each other. Sparks flew between The Magician and The Diver, and Sean Parris’s performance had everything to do with that. He was coy, he had the attitude, he was sizzling hot and funny. The Magician’s later encounter with Another Magician further enriched the story and explained much about The Magician’s character. Here Jack Bronis stole the stage as a man who had made absolute peace with mediocrity. This fascinating backstory also wraps seamlessly into the magic show, and brings us back first and foremost to the issue of trust.

The Magic Play is is a co-production in association with Actors Theatre of Louisville and Syracuse Stage. It is the result of a collaboration between playwright Andrew Hinderaker, actor/magician/illusionist Brett Schneider, for whom the central role was written, and director Halena Kays and brings to the stage the play’s original cast and crew. It was developed at Goodman Theatre’s 2014 New Stages Festival and had a rolling world premiere in 2016 at Goodman Theatre and Olney Theatre Center. This is its West Coast debut.

Special nods go to Matthew M. Neilson for sound design and original music; Philip Allgeier, media design; Lizzie Bracken, scenic design, Jesse Belsky, lighting design, Jim Steinmeyer, magic consultant; and Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi, aerial consultant.

The Magic Play runs through April 1.


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