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BWW Review: THE FUTURE at Geffen Playhouse Weaves Illusion and Storytelling into a Virtual Crowd-Pleaser

In this Magical World, the Audience is in Good Hands with Helder

BWW Review: THE FUTURE at Geffen Playhouse Weaves Illusion and Storytelling into a Virtual Crowd-Pleaser
Helder Guimarães, Photo by Julie Ann Renfro.

Geffen Playhouse has found its own unique key to navigating the dark days of 2020 -- and still maintain that art is alive and well -- with its highly successful Stayhouse series of interactive performances. These virtual offerings allow for several productions to run concurrently, rather than being limited to consecutively scheduled dates on one of the Geffen's two live stages. That may be one of the very few benefits of making art during a pandemic but hey, we'll take it.

There are opportunities for puzzle fans to untwist David Kwong's intricate challenges in INSIDE THE BOX, while amateur detectives are invited to work together to solve a real life mystery in CITIZEN DETECTIVE. Soon you'll be able to cook alongside Sri Rao in his BOLLYWOOD KITCHEN and, lest we forget the holidays, Jefferson Mays' brilliant one man interpretation of Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL has returned as a much-needed tonic for the soul in challenging times.

This adventure in stay-at-home theatre has been built largely on the success of professional magician Helder Guimarães, who led the way with his virtual interactive magic performance THE PRESENT earlier this year. Its overwhelming popularity and repeated extensions proved audiences were desperate for worthy entertainment, and it solidified The Geffen as a leader in how to adapt to the closure of theaters in the interest of public health. Shakespeare would have been proud.

The Geffen's follow-up to THE PRESENT is THE FUTURE, a smart new production, once again written by Guimarães and directed by Frank Marshall, that highlights Guimarães' ability to weave illusion and storytelling into a satisfying theatrical crowd-pleaser. With the indisputable skill of a master illusionist and the understated style of an artist who takes his desire to bring wonder into the world seriously, Guimarães handily draws us in, even from behind a screen in the comfort of our own homes.

Each sleight of hand trick and carefully crafted coincidence contributes to the overall narrative, which is itself drawn from Guimarães' road to becoming a magician. More than once the thought "how'd he do that?" left me shaking my head. But the real magic is not in flashy delivery but in the way he lets his artistry impress all on its own.

In theatre we often say, let the words do the work. In magic, the real trick is in letting the illusion speak for itself. We know what we are seeing is the result of years and years of practice and invention yet Guimarães makes it look effortless. Therein lies the joy.

Like THE PRESENT, you will receive a mystery package in the mail prior to your performance containing objects you'll need during the show. At times, audience members will vote to see where the story goes next and, at others, individuals will be asked to participate as they would in a traditional show. Rest assured no one is ever made to look foolish. Guimarães knows the audience's trust is too important and he never betrays the connection.

Because of that we happily follow him on a journey to the ominous poker game that changed his life and the surprising revelations that followed. It's a trip worth the ticket and when Guimarães delves into the show's more thoughtful ideas about the small choices that make a man's character, it naturally affords us the opportunity to examine our own

In the end, this virtual respite from the realities of a pandemic is a curious comfort, if only for a mere 80 or 90 minutes. And that's no illusion.

December 4, 2020 - March 14, 2021
Geffen Playhouse
Running Time: 80 minutes with no intermission.
Tickets are $95 per household. For more information, call 310-208-2028 or go to where you'll find a complete list of streaming performances, podcasts, and music playlists all under The Geffen's Stayhouse banner.

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