The Confidence Man

Woodshed Collective gives an amazing snow job.

Time Out Ratings :

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

Woodshed Collective proves itself up to old tricks in its marvelously intricate and involving new show. The sheer ambition of the project is impressive in and of itself: Set aboard theLilac Steamship at Pier 40, The Confidence Man comprises at least a dozen of stories about charlatans and mountebanks, some of them adapted from Herman Melville’s novel of the same name. These tales, organized into three discrete tracks, are enacted simultaneously in 25 different playing areas for groups of spectators, who are escorted around the ship by six docents but free to wander as they please. On a technical level, it’s a breathtaking stunt.

But The Confidence Man is much better than it needs to be for gimmickry’s sake alone. Paul Cohen’s script—which, when all the tracks are included, is some 330 pages long—bulges splendidly with clever frills and fillips, and touches on interesting questions of knowledge and faith. Although there is an inevitable range of talent among the 31 performers, most of them rise to the difficult task of performing inches away from their audience. (Aaron Dias, Kate Benson, Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum, Melissa Miller and Lee Zarrett were standouts on my track.) And here’s the capper: This entire unique theatrical adventure is being offered free of charge. Since the Woodshed folks are obviously pros at the con, you have to wonder: What’s their angle?—Adam Feldman

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Lilac Steamship. By Paul Cohen. Dir. Stephen Brackett, Lauren Keating, Michael Silverstone. With ensemble cast. 1hr 40mins. No intermission.