Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Review: The Disappearing Act

Love is certainly like magic. It's full of surprises. The trick is finding a way to stay in love. In Mariah MacCarthy's sexy and risqué Magic Trick, a trio of adults engage in love and lust in front of a bawdy burlesque backdrop.
While watching the show, you might be confused by the title. What magic is MacCarthy talking about? But in the larger scope of the piece, the magic trick could be Bana's consistent disappearing act she does to the ones she loves. Magic Trick follows wheelchair bound Bana and her loves as she makes her way through her emotionally damaged life. Told through a nonlinear lens, Bana falls in and out of love with Eric and Clara while hiding her insecurities deep inside. Magic Trick is seductively captivating and lustfully invigorating. MacCarthy has a very colloquial voice in her writing. Her characters have purpose and promise. Sure there are things to hate about each person, but in the end you felt connected to some part of their journey. One of the large themes MacCarthy plays into is the idea of damaged individuals. Whether physically or emotionally damaged, these characters fight against their flaws. Whether they are physically damaged like Bana or emotionally stunted like Eric or mentally scared like Clara, they blend and depend on one another. The way MacCarthy unites them is what is so fascinating. In the world of burlesque, the movement is how the dancer pulls their prey into their seductive trap. Whether it’s big or subtle, maintaining control over the audience is key. It’s a brilliant parallel for Bana. Bana seems to master the art of manipulation. She has complete and utter control over Eric and Clara. No matter what she does, these two individuals want her in their romantic presence. They cannot function without her. MacCarthy creates a character in Bana that just happens to be paraplegic. She does not use it as a device. She makes it a part of the character. You have to applaud MacCarthy for how she develops Bana despite the handicap. While a easy choice could have been to comment on it, MacCarthy strays away allowing the audience to see the character and not the wheelchair.
When you combine great writing with expert direction and an incredible cast, it’s magical. Magic Trick had just that. As the central character Bana, Chet Siegel is absolutely captivating. Siegel has a way of dominating the stage that is enchanting. Siegel has a quirky charm about her, yet it’s unique. Siegel eases between quick wit and raw sentimentality. Siegel has the ability to take over the New York theater scene. Kim Gainer as Clara may appear deliciously devious but it’s the character’s inner beauty that is mesmerizing. Clara partakes in a world that may be considered distasteful but Gainer captures the honesty of a woman searching for meaning. As Eric the trust fund no longer a baby, Ethan Hova stops at nothing to be loved. The trio go all out, unafraid of the small space, even with a fear of costume mishaps.
Director Christina Roussos does a mesmerizing job bringing MacCarthy’s world to life. Even at a running time of two plus hours, Roussos takes great care in pacing and time, allowing the play to naturally kick up the adrenaline or take a moment to exhale. Her staging in the small space was brilliant. Roussos and scenic designer Tim McMath utilized every nook and cranny that the Studio Theater offered. By placing scenic elements in unnatural locations, it brought out the ingenuity of Roussos’ vision. With about twenty scenes to track, Roussos clearly took time and care moving from scene to scene, allowing the transitions to live. Knowing that nineteen or so boring transitions would lose the audience, Roussos made them perfectly active. McMath’s transformation of the space with painted walls filled with burlesque posters and dangling lights allowed the capricious nonlinear storytelling find cohesiveness. The lighting looks by Lois Catanzaro transformed the world vastly. By simply utilizing various lamps, each scene had a specific mood. Costuming Magic Trick is integral. The pieces that the characters have to wear in the performance and real world need to be separate yet still maintain identity. Costume designer Allison Dawe was wondrous. The burlesque outfits alone were amazingly too hot for the small theater. Dawe and the ladies brought just enough glitter to make the play sparkle.
With such a long run time, you have to wonder if there was a way to streamline the story and combine some scenes and dialogue. Of course it’s possible. But Magic Trick was so captivating that you didn’t really mind. MacCarthy’s story is simple yet so intricate. That’s what makes this a not-so-typical love saga.