Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Carnival of Illusion

Also see Gil's review of Valhalla

Susan Eyed and Roland Sarlot
Roland Sarlot and Susan Eyed are an intriguing pair. Dressed in turn of the century costumes, the two conjure up an evening of theatrical illusions from days gone by, woven around an interesting tale of world travels. The husband and wife illusionists and their Carnival of Illusion show have come to the Mesa Arts Center for a series of weekend engagements that stretch well into next year. Part magic show, part travelogue with plenty of theatrical effects thrown in, the evening turns into a sophisticated parlor show like one that you imagine used to exist at the turn of the century with entertainers traveling from city to city.

Sarlot and Eyed have a natural sophistication and intrigue about them that creates a sense of awe and mystery in their performance. The magic tricks presented are classic examples of "Old World" magic but with an added air of modern sophistication: a mix of traditional magic, memorization abilities, close up illusions, dance, humor and music that keeps the audience guessing how the magic effect is achieved. There are also plenty of laughs and smiles from the audience as a result of the charm that Sarlot and Eyed display. They not only have fun with the audience, but with each other as well. There is also an abundance of warmth in the stories the two tell about their travels around the world—stories that tie perfectly into the history of the various illusions they present and how the cultures of the numerous countries they visited touched their lives.

While Sarlot has more to do as the main illusionist, the show is a true duo act as Eyed isn't just the magician's assistant but a talented illusionist, actress, dancer and storyteller herself. Both involve the audience in a fun, rarely embarrassing way that draws the audience into the theatrics of the illusions. They also exhibit great showmanship with several captivating sleight of hand illusions and a hint of vaudeville charm that culminate in a beautiful, almost stunning, magical ending.

With a lush, velvet "parlour" backdrop, a large Oriental rug on the stage floor, and draped chairs, there is the feeling of an intimate club-like setting. The suitcases covered in travel stamps from around the world perfectly tie into the "Around the World in 80 Minutes" subtitle of the show.

I could hear people whispering to each other "how did they do that?" throughout the show, and even though the illusions were presented just a few feet in front of us, I don't think anyone could determine just how the magic happened—that is how good Sarlot and Eyed are with their craft. They even take the time to personally thank each audience member on the way out of the show—a sign of a true entertainer, passionate about their art and their audiences.

Carnival of Illusion plays various Saturday evenings though May 2, 2014, at the Mesa Arts Center, as well as at various other venues in the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas. Complete show times, locations and ticket information can be found at

Photo: courtesy of Carnival of Illusion

--Gil Benbrook

Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for Phoenix

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