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The Magnificents at the House Theatre of Chicago | Theater review

Dennis Watkins's gentle, magic-fueled fable returns in a spruced-up production.

Photograph: Michael Brosilow
The Magnificents (2013) at the House Theatre of Chicago

As a follow-up to last year’s impressive remount of Dennis Watkins’s early work [node:15103433 link=Death and Harry Houdini;], the House revisits Watkins’s equally magic-infused 2007 piece about a small-scale traveling circus that takes in a new ward (Tommy Rapley) over the objections of the sickly magician proprietor (Watkins). The production isn’t much of a play, though maybe it’s not trying to be. As author, Watkins has improved on his earlier iteration; for instance, he makes the magician’s wife (Tien Doman) a full-fledged character rather than the gibberish-talking nag of the original. Yet no one onstage (including Jeff Trainor as a strongman, Lucy Carapetyan as a flirty aerial artist and Michael E. Smith as the company clown) has what you could call a character arc. Still, as a semi-narrative framework for Watkins’s mind-boggling old-school magic tricks, The Magnificents earns its title.

 

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