I've always been a fan of secret societies like fraternities, sororities, Freemasons, Illuminati, and... The Elephant Room Society? Okay, perhaps you haven't heard of the last one, but in a magical "room" propped up on cinder blocks at St. Ann's Warehouse, Louie Magic, Daryl Hannah and Dennis Diamond have brought their secret society to the audience in the show Elephant Room. These three characters (in all senses of the word) have created a production unlike anything I've ever seen or experienced before. Part magic show, part satire, part trippy, multi-narrative adventure, this show defies expectations at every turn as it entertains and amazes.
The more I think about it, the more magic is far similar to secret society rituals than I had previously imagined. Both assume that what you're seeing is not the total experience of an event. You know that something is being manipulated, and the best experiences come, for me at least, when you are genuinely impressed and awe-struck by what you're seeing.
Yet this was not the first thing that came to mind as the three magicians, the alter egos of Steve Cuiffo (who appears as Louie Magic), Trey Lyford (Daryl Hannah), and Geoff Sobelle (Dennis Diamond), took the stage. The show begins with an introduction of sorts, where the three stars of the evening explain The Elephant Room Society and its importance.
This introduction is, of course, the first sleight of hand, as magic shows are rarely characterized by narratives and characters. In other words, every magic show I've ever seen works as an ostensibly "real" interaction between the magician and the volunteers from the audience that showcase his tricks. Here the obvious use of characters and the construction of a plot set up certain theatrical expectations for how the show will progress.
But just like the master illusionists know how to draw our attention to one hand while we ignore what the other is doing, the non-linear structure of the action itself splits our theatrical attention in the same way. The three-part dialogue is broken up by synchronized movement sequences, individual monologues (in which one of the three is speaking, but the other two are still performing in the same space), hilariously self-conscious scene transitions, and audience participation.
I would like to take a second to talk about the magic itself. Obviously the narrative aspect of the show is creative and interesting, but it would have been a very different show if the three magicians had not performed any magic. For a minute I thought that this was going to be the case, but when the illusions did start to happen, I was thrilled. As I smiled and laughed and shook my head in disbelief, I was so grateful for the technical skill of these artists.
I'm aware that this amorphous description still hasn't told you what you can expect to see at Elephant Room, but, just as is the case with magic, I think that revealing exactly what occurred misses the point of the experience entirely. As Magic, Hannah, and Diamond say in the show, we come to a magic show to be transformed. This is certainly true for me, and this show was everything I wanted it to be and more. In fact, I have never seen anything like this before in my life, and I doubt I will again. If you want to experience an intelligent show that is pure entertainment, it's easier than getting water from elephants in a secret room in Patterson, NJ.
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