The Illusionists Deliver The Impossible
Going to see the Illusionists is like watching the film The Prestige while munching on hallucinogenic mushrooms. The show is an altogether over the top, jaw-dropping spectacular that by turns has audiences cringing in their seats, holding their breath, and laughing out loud. And despite the feeling of mass delirium, by the time the performance is over, everyone will undoubtedly line up to travel down this particular rabbit hole all over again.
The show features seven phenomenal artists, each with his own particular talent, who engage and enthrall at every turn. Adam Trent, the futurist, looks like the boy next door and will charm his way into your heart with his affable smile and effervescent spirit. From the moment the show begins, he invites members of the audience on stage to join in the fun. Whether he is doing card tricks for a six-year-old girl or teaching magic to a retired pharmaceutical rep, everyone is invited to join the party.
Jeff Hobson, the trickster, is flamboyant and outrageous, almost to the point that it seems like he could have been the love child of Liberace and Robin Williams (if that were possible). He weaves his magic while flirting shamelessly, showing off his rhinestone-encrusted jacket and shoes, stealing your gems and making you fall out laughing. If Warner Bros. ever decides to add the Ridler back to the Batman franchise, Jeff would be perfect for the role.
Aaron Crow is the strong, silent type. The Belgian-bred warrior is what my wife kept referring to as 'hot.' And although I might be loath to admit it, I see what she means. His high cheekbones and piercing gaze are riveting, and what is perhaps most intriguing about him is that he never says a word. With his crossbow raised right over the heads of onstage guests, you'll find yourself gasping when he shoots his arrow with long, skilled fingers.
Dan Sperry is known as the anti-conjuror, who is deliciously deviant and seems to take his cues from Heath Ledger's Joker. With his black fingernail polish, insane hair, and dark humor, he keeps the audience guessing as to whether he'll entertain them or kill them as he seems to rip one bird into two or three, multiplying them with rancid glee. Perhaps my favorite moment when he was on stage, however, was when he taught a matronly woman how to play a new game at home, his own take on Russian roulette.
Andrew Basso, the escapologist, is the sexy little Italian who drew catcalls from the audience as he threw off his clothes and climbed into Houdini's water torture cell, sans cover. As he was lowered into the tank upside down, the audience collectively wished him luck, not knowing if they would witness him drown on stage or escape unharmed. And as the minutes multiplied as Basso sought to free himself, some in the audience turned their heads, while others stared transfixed, hoping against hope that he would emerge unscathed. Houdini would have been proud.
Kevin James is the inventor, and oddly enough he reminds me of a skilled toymaker, a futuristic Gepetto if you will, who knows how to make our dreams come true. Even when he is cutting people in half, we know it is all in fun and we feel safe in his hands. James has a gift for tapping into everyone's inner child, whether he's making a paper duck dance in mid-air or conjuring up a snow storm at center stage.
But for me, it was Yu Ho-Jin, the manipulator, who truly stole the show. Recently named Magician of the Year by the Academy of Magical Arts, it is easy to see why the 19-year-old has won the hearts of both audiences and colleagues as he smiles mysteriously before weaving his spell around you with ethereal grace. We've all seen a magician make one or two cards appear, but Yu Ho-Jin has the ability to keep them coming, spinning in air, changing color, flowing through his hands like rainwater. Watching his performance is like watching a Japanese geisha's beautiful fan dance, and I guarantee you'll be transfixed by every wave of his hands.
The Illusionists' ad campaign says that you will witness the impossible, and all seven performers deliver on that promise in spades. Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime show. It will bring back all the wonder, magic, and possibility that we seem to forget about as adults. And that's perhaps the Illusionists' best trick. When you leave the theater, you'll feel as if you can dream again and have recaptured your childhood imagination, if even for a little while.
The Illusionists will be at the Providence Performing Arts Center through Sunday, Jan. 18.