Play Dead

Todd Robbins and Teller team up for a ghoulish soire.

  • Photograph: Thom Kaine

    playdeadREV

    SEANCE FICTION Robbins exposes the tall tales of mediums.

  • Photograph: Thom Kaine

    playdeadWEB1

  • Photograph: Thom Kaine

    playdeadWEB2

  • Photograph: Thom Kaine

    playdeadWEB3

Photograph: Thom Kaine

playdeadREV

SEANCE FICTION Robbins exposes the tall tales of mediums.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Todd Robbins begins his clever new evening of "spooky amusement" by chewing and ingesting a lightbulb. Although some in the audience may find this hard to swallow, the glass is real; the fakery comes later, as our smoothly loquacious host guides us with aplomb through the macabre histories of violent murderers and flimflamming mediums. Robbins has been down these paths before, in his 2005 Fringe Festival show, Dark Deceptions: The Sance Experience. But technical limitations at the Players Theatre sabotaged some of the eerie shocks he had planned; the spirits were willing, but the sets were weak.

No such troubles plague Robbins's return to the Players in the tauter and darker Play Dead. Directed and cowritten by Teller—the silent partner in the deconstructive magic act Penn & Teller—the show cunningly obfuscates its magical apparatus within the simple-looking pileup of David Korins's set. Without pretending to possess any actual supernatural powers, Robbins performs a series of engaging tricks, including impressive pseudopsychic readings, peppered with ghoulish stories and copious interplay with the crowd. (Several haunted-house--like sequences, set in inky blackness, have audience members shrieking with jittery glee.) Play Dead goes seriously awry only once, in a section devoted to a murdered friend of Robbins's. Though he and Teller sometimes try to cast shadows of real death on the stage, the show succeeds best as a kind of necromantic comedy.

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Players Theatre. By Teller and Todd Robbins. Dir. Teller. With Robbins. 1hr 30mins. No intermission.