November 19, 2015

Magic acts, it seems to me, are best served like a nice dry martini, straight up. That’s not the theory behind “The Illusionists,” directed and choreographed by Neil Dorward. It seems to have been designed along the lines of television contest shows like “The Voice” and “America’s Got Talent,” with all sorts of trumped-up glitz attempting to feed the excitement. We get continuous blasts of thunderous, supposedly suspense-enhancing music played onstage by a band. In addition to the seven magicians themselves, a chorus of assistants slinks around in gothic attire attempting to look sexy, or menacing, or something. There are laser beams, digital video screens and more. All this serves not to enhance the brilliance of the feats being performed but to distract from it. In fact, all the fancy stagecraft surrounding the acts makes the tricks themselves seem less impressive. A giant screen that hangs above the stage, offering us a close-up view of the sleight of hand, tends to grab your attention. Everyone knows that watching a magic act on television instead of live robs it of much of its allure.