Theater review by Jenna Scherer
There are two kinds of people at a magic show: Those who like to be tricked, and those who fancy themselves untrickable. Wherever you land on this spectrum, it will be hard not to be at least a bit bowled over by Secret, the latest from "psychological magician" Derren Brown. Though he's a sizable celeb in his native Britain, thanks to his numerous TV specials on Channel 4, Brown is less well-known in the States. But it's easy to see why he's developed such a following in the U.K.: He oozes confidence and charisma, the kind you don't quite trust but can't turn away from nonetheless. In Secret, he uses a combination of psychological manipulation, hypnosis and old-fashioned misdirection to spin a web around his audience.
It’s hard to describe the show in detail without giving away the game—and a grand game it is—but suffice to say, it's a combination of jaw-dropping "How did he do that?" moments and inspirational speeches that veer dangerously close to the litanies of motivational speakers (perhaps the most influential flimflam artists of our age). Brown is of two minds about all of this: He both wants to wow you with his sleight of mind and debunk the notion that mysticism and divination hold any water. But he takes such obvious pleasure in inspiring wonder at his tricks that it's hard to believe he isn't a believer himself. However you feel about Brown and his mental machinations, what transpires in Secret is enough to make even the most hardened skeptic think twice.
Atlantic Theater Company (Off Broadway). By Andy Nyman, Derren Brown and Andrew O'Connor. Directed by O'Connor and Nyman. With Brown. Running time: 2hrs 30mins. One intermission. Through June 25.
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