Here’s another blog-only review—It is Magic, the latest offering from Capital T Theatre which, despite initial appearances, is a perfect Halloween treat.
“It Is Magic” (playing through November 24th at Hyde Park Theatre) is the latest work by playwright Mickle Maher to be taken on by director Mark Pickell and Capital T, and it is a strange, fierce, funny ode to the sometimes sinister magic of the theater.
The black box that is Hyde Park Theatre is the perfect setting for “It Is Magic,” which takes place in the basement of a community theater somewhere in middle America. Sisters Deb and Sandy are holding an audition for a new play written by Deb, an “adult interpretation” of the story of the three little pigs, focusing on the character of the wolf. Meanwhile, a production of Macbeth is premiering in the theater upstairs, leading artistic director Ken to come downstairs and pontificate on what he sees as the banality of theater itself.
What begins, then, as a parody of the pretensions and self-aggrandizement of small-scale theater slowly transforms into a comedic, chaotic, surrealist interrogation of the intersection of live performance with both real and imagined magic. The stories of the three little pigs and Macbeth soon converge within the lives of the characters, and director Pickell (along with lighting designer Patrick Anthony and sound designer Lowell Bartholomee) create some convincing bits of theatrical magic of their own that transport us from a bare basement to a place full of wonder and witchcraft.
This description is, of necessity, elliptically vague, as the play very much revolves around a narrative reveal about half-way through the script, at which point the more supernatural side of Mickle’s text becomes clear. Katherine Catmull, as Deb, and Rebecca Robinson, as Sandy, do an excellent job of riding the line between these two halves, equally inhabiting both the satire and the savageness demanded by the script.
Similarly, Robert Pierson as artistic director Ken smoothly moves between humorous pomposity and controlling rage, while Jill Blackwood’s confused and vaguely menacing presence as a strange woman named Liz is an intense and wickedly fun departure from much of the actress’ more recent, stately work. Finally, John Christopher, as the amiable local actor Tim, rounds out the cast by truly hamming up the stage with a delightful, over-the-top energy that moves from funny to frightening as the play progresses.
“It Is Magic” is a fun, ferocious, and (after a few slow-paced opening scenes) fast-moving ode to the power and potency of theatrical magic, which is as spooky as it is unsparing in its parody of the pretensions of theater that sometimes—just sometimes—are well warranted.