Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Magic Play
Olney Theatre Centre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Or, and Fun Home

Brett Schneider
Photo by Stan Barouh
In 2014, Olney Theatre Center staged Colossal, a category-defying play by Andrew Hinderaker about a football player learning to cope following a paralyzing injury. The playwright returns to Olney with another boundary breaker, The Magic Play, which incorporates magic into a plot about trust and control—and it's solidly entertaining. The Olney production is part of a rolling world premiere, which started at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.

Hinderaker worked with magician Brett Schneider, who plays the central role, and director Halena Kays to create a performance that straddles the line between truth and illusion and, with the help of audience volunteers, is never the same show twice. The denouement depends completely on input from the audience.

The Magician (Schneider) starts the performance by pointing out that, while he may be fooling his audience, the audience members are also fooling themselves by pretending they are not sitting in a darkened room with other people. "We must see ourselves and allow ourselves to be seen," he says, but that's also the crux of his personal drama.

As the Magician manipulates cards at a table—projected on a screen overhead—the audience also sees what's going on in his mind: behind the screen, images of a man (Jon Hudson Odom) on a high diving board, preparing to dive and then diving (flying effects by D2 Flying Effects). This is Daniel, the Magician's lover, who met him when he volunteered during a magic performance but now wants more spontaneity in the relationship than he feels he's getting. The Magician needs to be as in control of his life as he is with onstage, but as the Diver says, "You have to leap off the board and trust there's water underneath."

Less effective is the Magician's attempt to reconnect with his father (Harry A. Winter), a capable magician but not an artist like his son, who left his family and entertains at seedy casinos and birthday parties. The interaction is minimal and much less satisfying than the ongoing tension between Daniel and the Magician.

Olney Theatre Center
The Magic Play
April 12th - May 7th, 2017
By Andrew Hinderaker
Magician: Brett Schneider
Diver: Jon Hudson Odom
Father: Harry A. Winter
Directed by Halena Kays
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or

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