‘The Magic Play’ is about a lot more than illusion


“This is just a card,” magician extraordinaire /actor Brett Schneider tells the audience. And so starts a little over two hours of Goodman Theatre’s fascinating The Magic Play.

Smaller than the Albert Theatre, the Owen’s space is perfect for appreciating Schneider’s magic. But playwright Andrew Hinderaker has put a lot more up Schneider’s sleeve than astonishing tricks.

Magician/actor Brett Schneider in the world premiere of 'The Magic Play' by Andrew Hinderaker at Goodman Theatre Photo by Liz Lauren
Magician/actor Brett Schneider in the world premiere of ‘The Magic Play’ by Andrew Hinderaker at Goodman Theatre Photo by Liz Lauren

Developed while in residence in Goodman’s Playwrights Unit, Hinderaker collaborated with Schneider to produce a remarkable play that asks if the illusion a magician uses to astound an audience carries over to personal life and relationships

The Magic Play uses another character, The Diver, magnificently portrayed as the magician’s love interest by Sean Parris, to force a self-analysis about deception versus honesty.

Hinderaker takes the play’s premise a step further by asking what happens if the magician lets go and doesn’t try to control everything that happens on stage and in his life.

Based on a relative who was an amateur magician with relationship problems, the playwright has used a specific, deception-oriented profession, but the message is pertinent to a wider range of controlling personalities and how those traits affect relationships.

In The Magic Play, the relative is the father who abandoned the family when the magician was a young boy. Played by Francis Guinan, the father appears to be a somewhat broken down, second-rate magician playing casinos and children’s parties in Reno.

That visit changed the magician. After seeing what his father had become and hearing that his father didn’t think family was more important than performing and that he wasn’t really sorry he left, the magician returned determined to take chances with relationships instead of always being in control.

It all plays out against Lizzie Bracken’s deceptively simple set design. A full screen behind the magician reflects the cards on a table so the audience can see them. The screen also becomes translucent to integrate The Diver behind it with the action on stage.

Directed by Halena Kays, The Magic Play, is worth seeing more than once. (Recommended for ages 13 and up).

Details: The Magic Play is at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL 60601 now through Nov. 20, 2016. For tickets and other information call 312-443-3800 and visit Goodman.