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Broadway Reviews

Derren Brown: Secret

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - September 15, 2019

Derren Brown: Secret Written by Andy Nyman, Derren Brown, and Andrew O'Connor. Directed by Andrew O'Connor and Andy Nyman. Scenic design by Takeshi Kata. Lighting design by Ben Stanton. Sound design by Jill BC Du Boff. Projection design by Caite Hevner. Cast: Derren Brown.
Theatre: Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th Street between Broadway and 6th Avenue
Tickets: Telecharge

Derren Brown
Photo by Matthew Murphy

There is an unstated contractual arrangement between performers and the audience in the theater. For their part, those on stage will do their best to intrigue, delight, enlighten, or challenge us. For ours, we will agree to suspend our disbelief for an hour or two and allow ourselves to fall under their spell, in whatever form that may take. Most often, that form would be a play or musical, but not always. With this understanding, ladies and gentlemen, may I commend to you the vastly entertaining and undeniably theatrical "special event" that is Derren Brown: Secret, opening tonight at the Cort Theatre.

If you are unfamiliar with the name, Derren Brown is a celebrated British mentalist, with two Olivier Awards and multiple books and tv appearances to his name. What he has in spades is an uncanny ability to harness a deep understanding of psychology and consistently amaze us with feats that seem to be psychic. This is true even when we know are being charmed and gently coerced into a state of trust and belief. And it is also true when he tells us that is exactly what he is doing. If he is not a magician, he is magical. He could, I am certain, pull a rabbit out of your mind.

If you want to know specifically what will happen during the evening, you will have to read my mind, because the audience is sworn to secrecy. I will tell you this much, however. Mr. Brown exudes warmth, humor, empathy and charisma by the barrelful. He is a thoroughly engaging storyteller and an expert at deflecting our attention so that we miss things he tells us in advance we should watch out for. And he easily gets members of the audience to join him onstage in a way that makes them feel comfortable and safe. Whether through hypnosis, the power of suggestion, or subliminal messaging, he manages to get his volunteers to do precisely what he intends them to do, so that he can "predict" their behaviors with near 100 percent accuracy.

The show does have three writers, Mr. Brown, Andy Nyman, and Andrew O'Connor. The latter two also share directing responsibilities. So nothing is as spontaneous as it seems. Still, anyone who's ever been spammed, scammed, hacked, or trolled knows there are few secrets that are unassailable, and if you do join him onstage, know that he will be able to read you like a book. We are fortunate that Mr. Brown, the ultimate flim-flam man, uses his highly polished skills to entertain. Otherwise, he could launch an army of "Manchurian Candidates."

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