Mystery Seance Theatre: review of HUMBUG

 

 

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Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of being humbugged by David London at the Branch Museum. Now you can just get your minds out of the gutter and know that to humbug someone means to deceive them with a light hearted intent as in a jest or rouse. Humbuggery is all about good clean fun and so was the show I saw, HUMBUG: The Great P. T. Barnum Seance brought to the Branch courtesy of The Firehouse Theatre.

London, creator of and sole performer in  is a magician  who incorporates magic tricks into informative performance art pieces. HUMBUG engages the audience in the history of P. T. Barnum and his career in the first act then allows 12 seance table ticket holders participate firsthand in a seance using a table of London’s own design while the other audience members watch.

This show is participatory all the way. Just as the ad for the show says London regales the audience with tales of Barnum’s life and illustrious career as he passes around artifacts associated with Barnum and the acts that made his museum and circus famous (some real, some not) then there is the “spirit” connection thing. What the ad for the show fails to convey is the magic tricks that London incorporates in the first act that truly astounded me – unless of course, I really am psychic.

I was chosen out of the audience to assist with a demonstration designed to prove a connection between items associated with a person and that person’s spirit. I was asked to hold a keepsake supposedly containing a lock of hair from the beard of Annie Jones one of Barnum’s most famous bearded ladies. Then I was asked to blindly identify cards with either her picture or that of a random bearded lady. Somehow they came out 100% correct! Upon reflection I have an idea of how the trick was executed but at the time it was smooth as silk and I was, along with the rest of the audience, genuinely surprised.

I mean we were all grown-ups and knew this wasn’t real but it was good entertainment all the same. My one criticism: London could use some tweaking in the acting department. He is good enough for the average theatre goer but could be smoother as a showman. That subtle difference would have drawn me into the piece to a higher degree making my suspension of disbelief that much more salacious.

This show is great for history buffs, people who like the mysterious or folks who are simply looking for a different kind of theatrical experience.

Playing one more weekend. For more information click here.

 

 

A “Positive Post” to Eva DeVirgilis from Mary in Richmond, Virginia:

 

In My Chair

Dear Eva,

I am so proud of you for showing up, taking a risk, and putting yourself and the stories of so many other women out there in the form of your one woman show, in my chair. It was a gigantic undertaking which has already, and I am sure will continue to, generate some empowering positive vibrations across the Universe by making women aware of debilitating behaviors like constantly apologizing about themselves and allowing their looks to be a primary factor in their societal value.

You are a good actress in your own right, smart, funny and talented so I was a little confused by the many “Wichman” acting quirks you incorporated in your performance. You can make this so much more YOUR style and it will double the value of the message. But I don’t suppose anyone who is unaware of your husband’s way of approaching characters will spot that. And it is a charming testament to how beautifully supportive you two are of each other – which you also make clear in the show. (Spot on with the imitation of Scotty watching a football game, BTW! You should totally keep that as you are playing him directly. It is adorbs.)

The story of how the show came to be is fascinating, the TEDxRVAwomen talk invite, the success of the talk itself, the 8 countries in 44 days tour, etc but some of the stats and deets are unnecessary to the message and might come off as a bit braggy which is a turn-off. For example, the part about how many views the TEDxRVAwomen talk got is great for your bio and a nice vehicle for getting your mother in the show but adds nothing to the play except annoying distraction. You are good enough, your message is strong enough and your play is good enough without this type of information.

Speaking of your mother…I found the character similarities between your mother and your nagging, inner voice, Norma, to be an interesting psychological twist. I know that my inner critic originates partly from my mother’s parenting choices ingrained in my psyche and it is often her voice I hear when I experience doubt, fear, or limitation. I assume this is universal. Awesome insight here, Eva!

I loved the interaction with the audience you incorporated into the script. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of the show as a volunteer. I am really glad that I had the experience of being invited to stand up, asked to shout out, “I am a Leader!”, and receive the exhilarating energy from the audience as they shouted back to me, “We support you!” If that happened to me once a day I bet I could do anything and be wildly successful. It was an unexpected takeaway that I will use for inspiration for months to come. What a wonderful gift!

I am also grateful for the chance to give and receive a positive message (the ones you call positive posts) to and from another random woman. Women need to do a better job of supporting each other in terms of doing bigger and better things. As you demonstrate, little messages of encouragement can go a long way in this effort; pushing more of us to run for office, start and run successful businesses, make the changes that need to happen to give us the opportunities and status we require, deserve and deserve all over this planet.

I think this show is perfect for women of all ages, girls aged 10 and up and for any man who is looking to have a place at the table anytime in the future.

In the show you said you wanted critics to say in their reviews, “Eva, How are you so tiny and funny.” I have included those words in this post only because you said you wanted them. You are funny, Eva but you are not tiny. You are large in the sense that you are a powerhouse when you are honestly and authentically standing in your truth which is joyfully where you are for the majority of this play -and it shows! Those are the parts that shine. The audience can see and feel it and I bet you can too. It is when you are sharing the stories of the women you met across the globe and exposing your own vulnerabilities.

Keep the positive ripples going, Eva! Keep growing into your own power. Trust yourself and your instincts. You can do this work. You ARE doing this work.

YOU ARE A LEADER AND WE SUPPORT YOU!

 

 

To learn more about in my chair, click here.

photo by Jason Collins photography

God redefined: Review of “An Act of God”

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Who knew that we needed a revamp of the ten commandments? Apparently, David Javerbaum who penned An Act of God thought so. In this intermission-less comedy starring Maggie Bavolack as God, with supporting roles of Michael and Gabriel played by Kylie M.J. Clark and Anne Michelle Forbes (in that order), is basically a rant about the concept of a Judeo-Christian God. It is entertaining but the direction and acting are a bit one dimensional.

Intellectual musings and jokes come and go so quickly here that it is difficult to wrap one’s brain around an idea before attention must be redirected to another. Of the three talented actresses onstage, Forbes is cheated out of a fully faceted performance as she is relegated to stage right without much to do but smile prettily as she reads aloud.

I liked the play and would like to have the time to relish the whit with a slower pacing and wider range of performance.

Why you should see it: It is one of the few religious themed plays in the Acts of Faith Festival this year and the other audience members enjoyed it.

Who would like this play: Adults who appreciate humor as a means of making a point.

Click here for more information.

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