BWW Review: Give in to Wonder at THE MAGIC PLAY, at Portland Center Stage
As adults, we don't often get to experience true wonder - perhaps when seeing the occasional perfect sunset or at the moment of falling in love. But there's no shortage of wonder in Andrew Hinderaker's THE MAGIC PLAY, now running at Portland Center Stage. This beautiful show, which combines some truly impressive sleight of hand with achingly raw emotion, is the antidote to cynicism and could touch even the most jaded of hearts.
THE MAGIC PLAY is the result of a collaboration between Hinderaker and Brett Schneider, an actor and magician and also the star. It opens, fittingly, with Schneider, as The Magician, performing a magic show. He soon becomes distracted by visions of The Diver (played by the exceedingly charming Sean Parris), who broke off their relationship just that morning. The reason, we learn, is that The Magician spent so much of his time trafficking in illusion that he forgot how to be a real human person. Losing the love of his life forces him take a hard look at himself and start a journey to break down the facade that has been keeping him from connecting intimately with other people. It's romantic and heartbreaking - be prepared to have a lump in your throat.
Now, I'm a sucker for a good magic trick. I'll gamely pick a card from a trick deck anytime. But Schneider is on a whole different level. In the play, he talks about magic well done becoming a miracle, and what he achieves truly is miraculous, especially in his last trick of the night, which is one of those experiences you'll be thinking and talking about for a long time to come. Even if he were to reveal how he does it, I wouldn't want to know because the sense of awe is so exquisite.
Aside from the actual magic, there's some serious theatre magic in this show as well. In particular, Lizzie Bracken's set and the flying effects used to simulate The Diver jumping off of the high dive.
Overall, I recommend THE MAGIC PLAY very highly. When you go, be sure to leave your skepticism at the door and just enjoy your time in the extraordinary space Schneider creates.
THE MAGIC PLAY runs through April 1. More details and tickets here.
Photo credit: Liz Lauren