By Andy Nyman, Derren Brown & Andrew O'Connor;
Directed by Andrew O'Connor & Andy Nyman
Off Broadway, Mind Reading/Illusion
Runs through 6.25.17
Atlantic Theater Company, 336 West 20th Street
by Ken Kaissar on 5.16.17
Derren Brown in Secret. Photo by Seamus Ryan.
BOTTOM LINE: A hilarious and thrilling evening of mind reading and psychological illusion.
Thanks to some previous experiences with sub par “magic” shows in Vegas, my expectations were not particularly high for Derren Brown: Secret. But the show completely blew my mind. Though I’m not the most fastidious audience member when it comes to illusions, I do try to bring a modicum of critical thought to my experience. Yet each of my feeble attempts to debunk what I witnessed was systematically shut down and disabled. I remain stunned. And so I offer this clear-cut advice with the full conviction that you’ll thank me for it: GO SEE THIS SHOW!
Derren Brown is a mind reader. That’s not a hyperbolic superlative, but merely a concise description of what you’re in for. He reads the minds of random audience members and proves his accuracy in the most remarkable and ostentatious of ways. I can hear your skepticism already: “The show depends on audience plants.” But between the wild audience selection process (randomized with Frisbee throwing) and the fact that audience participants are then invited to randomly select other audience members for participation, if this is an audience-plant stunt, it’s the most intricate and sophisticated set-up ever devised. Nearly the entire audience is involved, so if they are all in on it, it would mean poor prospects for box office return. All I can surmise is that Brown is actually reading minds.
However Brown pulls off his wonders, the experience is bewildering and spellbinding. My attention never waned once. But more than that, Brown is hilarious. The evening is filled with witty jabs at the expense of his volunteers, delivered in an understated, straight-faced manner and a British accent that only adds to the hilarity. Brown manages to lampoon his participants without showing them an ounce of unkindness or disrespect. In fact, he often turns the joke around and reveals something touching or uplifting about them, sending them back to their seats with the glisten of a tear.
Brown will tell you that something of a psychic nature is taking place in the theatre. If there is some other explanation for how he does it, I’ll be damned if I know what it is. So when you go, if you uncover the logic by which Brown performs his small miracles, would you kindly shoot me an email and explain it to me? More importantly, in the spirit of psychic mind control, if you regret attending or feel that I’ve steered you wrong, please email me. My psychic prediction is that I won’t hear from a single one of you.
(Derren Brown: Secret plays at Atlantic Theater Company, 336 West 20th Street, through June 25, 2017. The running time is 2 hours 30 minutes with an extended intermission. Performances are Tuesdays at 7; Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 8; Saturdays at 2 and 8; and Sundays at 2. Tickets are $65 and are available at atlantictheater.org or by calling 866-811-4111.)
Derren Brown: Secret is by Andy Nyman, Derren Brown & Andrew O'Connor. Performed by Derren Brown. Directed by Andrew O'Connor and Andy Nyman. Set Design is by Takeshi Kata. Lighting Design is by Ben Stanton. Sound Design is by Jill BC Du Boff. Projections are by Caite Hevner. Stage Manager is Cynthia Cahill.