Entertainment » Theatre

The Illusionists

by Rachel  Breitman
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Jan 8, 2018
The Illusionists
The Illusionists  

With temperatures plunging and the holiday memories fading, Washington, D.C. could use a little magic and whimsy to survive the winter months. "The Illusionists" provides just that, two hours of silly light-hearted escape produced by five magicians with very different styles.
First up is playing "Futurist" Adam Trent, who serves as a master of ceremonies for the night. He is charming and flirtatious with the audience, mixing tricks with banter and asides that keep the show light and silly. Some of his magic tricks are confusing, including a robot who claims to read minds, and putting a smartphone in the blender only to find it later when sawing into a ripe melon.

Some of the high performance is high-tech, featuring projections and video screens that allow him to jump from place to place upon the stage, but other moments are basic like simple card tricks played upon elementary-school aged audience members. Whether his jokes elicit awe or laughs, he keeps the tone of the show playful and engages well with the studio audience. With his flashy grin and pop-star haircut, Trent is definitely tv-ready, smoothing out the edges of the more unconventional performers.

Meanwhile, "The Inventor" Kevin James provides a variety of shocking moments, including sawing people in half, making a ventriloquist statue come alive, and also making a torn tissue turn into a cascade of snowflakes.
He gamely lifts the veil on some of the magic, by showing some children from the audience how simple some of his tricks are, like the disappearing coins that he obviously tosses offstage to a nearby assistant. He is like the kooky uncle who is quick to amuse, even if the jokes are sometimes on him.

Adding tension to the night is "The Escapist" Krendl, who manages to unlock his handcuffs while being held underwater with his feet bound. While imitating some of Houdini's greatest tricks, he brings a pulse-pounding realism, as he seems to put his own well-being constantly on the line, with a vivid clock ticking away the moments he is underwater or the seconds before a sword guillotine will drop on his body.

A far gentler experience comes from the "Manipulator" Florian Sainvet who uses simple flicks of the wrist to make objects multiply or disappear, and shows how an x drawn with a marker can magically jump between the hands of audience members.

On the flipside is the goth hard-edged "Weapon Master" Ben Blaque who shoots balloons and apples off the black leotard and fishnet clad assistants' heads. More impressive is when he sets up a series of arrows to hit various bullseyes including on above his own head. During this culminating trick, he is blindfolded, using only the sound of a bell to aim his weapon.

While the tricks are uneven, ranging from jaw-dropping to mundane, the show coasts on the diverse personalities of its hosts, keeping minor card tricks from growing prosaic when light shows, weapons, and complex escapes are mixed in. Creative director Jim Millan and director/producer Neil Dorward make sure there is a heavy dose of silliness in between the more serious bits so that the show keeps the performances light and humorous, and even the most death-defying acts never take themselves too seriously.

"The Illusionists" runs through January 7 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St NW. For tickets call (202) 467-4600 or go to Kennedy-center.org.

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