Sure, Mariah MacCarthy’s new play, Magic Trick, is full of sexy goodness, what with its burlesque routines, girls kissin’ boys, girls kissin’ girls, full on nekkid scenes and all the steamy, flirty, hungry passion that can erupt between two (or three) people caught in a windstorm of lust and love and like and leaving. But scratch the surface of all the seduction and right below you’ll find a strong play filled with true emotion, hard choices, honest conversation, not-always-likable characters, and unanswered questions.
Magic Trick clocks in at over 2 hours but don’t let the run time fool you – the pacing of this show has it feeling much faster thanks to the solid direction of Christina Roussos who uses every opportunity to bring as much information to the audience at once so that each moment is filled to the brim with the identities of these individuals.
The story revolves around Bana (Diana Oh) the beautiful, sexual, confident, wheelchair-bound girlfriend of Eric (Nic Grelli) who, on the night we meet them, are in a club hooting and hollering their admiration for Clara (Kim Gainer) who is performing a sizzling burlesque number. Talk turns to the couple taking the performer home, and while it doesn’t happen this first scene nicely sets up the parameters of Bana and Eric’s relationship, their views on their sexuality as a couple, and exactly where Bana’s paralysis falls on the spectrum of difficulty- for the couple, for Bana, and for the tone of the play. It also lets the audience in on the secret that Bana and Clara have already been involved for a while. Additionally MacCarthy neatly informs the audience, with this first scene, that while Bana is paralysed this detail does not define her … it’s simply another one of her characteristics as much as her sense of humor; something to be taken into consideration, but nothing to be singled out. Like setting up the chess pieces on a board, everything is now in place for the game to be played with a vengeance.
Hereafter MacCarthy plays hard and fast with the timeline mixing present day with flashback so vigorously that – even with the help of cue cards – it can be a bit of a task to sort out where you are in the story line. If Magic Trick were a more linear story where “A” leading to “B” was the only thing you could rely upon in order for Sherlock Holmes to reveal the criminal in the end, all this jumping around would work against the plot. For Magic Trick, however, it’s not necessary to follow the time-line as much as follow the need. While cause and effect generally occurs in a linear way, our minds put the pieces together in an altogether different way, one which lines up events according to importance and flavor and color and texture and sight and sound … not time. That’s something that McCarthy intuitively understands as she delivers her characters in snapshot moments of happiness, confusion, lust, honesty, despair and anger.
So while the relationship of Bana and Eric is a complicated one, so is the one between Bana and Clara – and the one between Eric and Clara. Each coupling produces a different side to the individual and Gainer, Grelli and Oh are all fantastic at portraying not only the many different sides that one other individual brings out in them, but then the whole palate and range of different sides that another individual coaxes out. We watch as Bana goes from loving Eric to experiencing feelings of emotional and physical betrayal. She moves out and on to a relationship with Clara – one which she does not label or define, even as Clara longs to define it. In a powerful scene that highlights Gainer’s raw strength Clara – with Bana’s blessing – couples with Eric only to turn on him in a way that is unnerving to watch.
Whether it’s with a brooding strip routine that coincides with a scene of despair, dancing as metaphor, stripping in anger or baring one’s body because it’s easier than baring one’s soul, all forms of display are evident in Magic Trick - there to illuminate the person as a whole, not simply to titillate. And while Diana Oh, Kim Gainer and Nic Grelli all strip seductively, with expert wickedness and nuanced allure there’s no mistaking that this play is not about baring skin but about baring emotions. Which, once revealed to another, can’t be hidden again behind a feather boa.
Caps Lock Theatre
Writer: Mariah MacCarthy
Director: Christina Roussos
Bana: Beautiful, paraplegic, missing. Eric: her (ex?) boyfriend, looking for her. Clara: That burlesque dancer they almost took home. Bana’s donning pasties, Eric’s losing his sh*t, and Clara gets naked and won’t leave. A love story with burlesque.
2h 40m Local Manhattan, New York
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