By Dennis Friebe and Antwan Towner; Directed by David Meneses
Produced by Kardenni Entertainment
Part of the 2017 FRIGID New York Festival
Off Off Broadway, Magic
Runs through 3.3.17
Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street
by Aiden Dreskin on 2.24.17
Dennis Friebe and Lindsi Jeter in Illusion of Choice. Photo by Yvonne Suhor.
BOTTOM LINE: A light, fun magic show that challenges how we make our choices.
Illusion of Choice is a different kind of magic show. In the hour I spent with him, the magician never made anything appear or disappear. There was no hypnosis and no death-defying finale. Instead, he just made suggestions—yes or no, left or right, red or blue—and let the cards fall where they may. Then he would show me that he knew all along the choice I would make, and make me wonder if I really chose at all. It's a chilling journey of mental manipulation: the two performers somehow show everything, and still leave you wondering what exactly just happened.
Kardenni, the brain-wizard in question (Dennis Friebe) is a somewhat charming, mostly awkward host who capitalizes on his ability to massage an uncomfortable silence. Even when the illusions aren't the most impressive, he is always entertaining to watch, suppressing the excitement of each successful gambit with almost childlike glee. His demeanor is infectious and really helps to smooth out the low points of the show, of which there were a few. Sometimes it's clear that the crux of a certain trick hinges on vague wordplay and unclear instructions. For example, Kardenni will ask an audience member to choose between binary options onstage, but then doesn't describe what each outcome will entail, so he can manipulate the answer to mean whatever he wants it to. These moments don't make up the entire show, however, and there were plenty of others that I'm still racking my brain over.
The "magic show" portion of the evening is punctuated by little bubbles in time and space where Bunny '"the multidimensional being" (Lindsi Jeter) dances around the stage, futzing with Kardenni's frozen-in-time body and playing with audience members. Without ruining the ending, the story between Bunny and Kardenni is a cute parallel to the ideas they are trying to instill in their audience. While her portions of the act are amusing, they sometimes feels like filler to pad the run time; they're a little too long, without much content.
While not a traditional play, Illusion of Choice is still a fun and intriguing night of theatre. The piece has an interesting take on fate and decision-making, and the performers are a joy to watch. The overall production has some rough edges in its execution, but the concept is entertaining enough. If you're looking for a plot-heavy story or a grand spectacle, this is not going to be the magic show for you, but if you want a light, fun, thought-provoking evening, you'll have a great time.
(Illusion of Choice: A Magical Experience with Kardenni plays at the Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street, through March 3, 2017. The running time is one hour. Performances are Thu 2/16 at 5:30, Thu 2/23 at 8:50, Sat 2/25 at 1:40, Sun 2/26 at 12:10, Tue 2/28 at 7:10, and Fri 3/3 at 5:10. Tickets are $15, $10 for students/seniors/military, and are available at FRIGIDNewYork.info.)
Illusion of Choice: A Magical Experience with Kardenni is by Dennis Friebe and Antwan Towner. Directed by David Meneses. Choreography by Isis Masoud. Music is by Halsey, Mike Newport, Leroy Bocchieri, Owen Phillips, Hal Goldstein, Parov Stelar, Kevin McLeod, Dennis Friebe, and Kiew Nikon.
The cast is Dennis Friebe and Lindsi Jeter.