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Review: THE ENIGMATIST at The Geffen Playhouse

Now playing through November 14, 2021.

Review: THE ENIGMATIST at The Geffen Playhouse

One thing I know about myself is that I suck at puzzles. Really, I do. Or at least I thought I did. Until I stood up and nearly had a right answer. Although, I didn't, turns out. But I was close. Maybe I'm not that bad?

If this is the sort of conversation you have with yourself regularly when faced with what seems like a daunting intellectual challenge, but the nerd in you is dying to try anyway, THE ENIGMATIST at The Geffen Playhouse is here to satisfy your skills and your ego. As a hot theater ticket from now through November, the highly interactive performance is billed as a magic show. Oddly enough, though, there's no magic in it. Or, rather, it's not 'magical'.

Adulting with realism feels a little bit like glamping for the mind. It's pretty high-end. And that is the audience (like wordplay geeks or anyone who ever had a burning fantasy of solving a Rubik's Cube or has!) who is most going to enjoy this show. THE ENIGMATIST seems to attract a high-end crowd of crossword nerds, near superhero problem solvers, and UCLA professors (and their dates/spouses) to solve the most mysterious of puzzles and all things mere mortals find moderately challenging to guess. In a word, an enigma. The show starts in the Puzzle Garden long before you enter the theater.

Renowned magician and New York Times crossword constructor David Kwong offers a sophisticated presentation of multi-layered illusion, where clues are everywhere and the surprises that happen often, can be solved by observing with a rational eye. In other words, all the tricks are perfectly logical if you think about them. That doesn't however, spoil any of the fun. Kwong has a knack for pulling out all the stops presenting the illusions while also explaining them but not really ever giving anything away in the final outcome. It's a truly dazzling balance that keeps the audience highly engaged throughout the performance.

Words, numbers, letters, and other physical clues are strung together by a narrative that boasts a number of interesting facets including famous husband and wife 20th-century code breakers, William and Elizabeth Friedman, the birthplace of cryptology, and the Sir Francis Bacon cipher that allegedly used Shakespeare's plays as a cover, all build on one another as part of the mystery.

The Pre-Show Puzzle Garden is open one hour before curtain. It is recommended that you arrive early to solve the four puzzle walls located both inside and outside of the building. But it's not mandatory.

Otherwise, THE ENIGMATIST is extraordinarily fun.

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccinations is required in order to enter the Geffen.

There is no social distancing in the theater.

Runtime is 90 minutes, no intermission.

Children under 12 years of age will not be admitted.




From This Author - Tracey Paleo

Tracey Paleo is a member of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle.  

... (read more about this author)

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