Grand Magic

Is it Only a Disappearing Act?

Reviewed by Mary Alderson

In 2018, Stratford Festival included in its roster the play Napoli Milionaria! by Eduardo de Filippo. Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino directed it. It was a fascinating story about life in Italy in World War II. Based on that success, Cimolino is directing Grand Magic by the same playwright.

The opening scene is lovely. As the audience members are taking their seats in the beautiful Tom Patterson Theatre, we look down on a gorgeous seaside resort. Patrons are relaxing in the sunshine under beautiful umbrellas, or sitting in matching canvas sling beach chairs. Some are playing cards to while away the time. Everyone is leisurely sharing the latest gossip of those staying at this luxury hotel. It appears that one of the guests is having an affair behind the back of her jealous, possessive husband. There is also chatter about the evening’s entertainment: a magician who is quite popular. Or so we are led to believe.

The magician performs later, and asks the woman who seems to be having an affair to volunteer to go into a mummy’s sarcophagus. A few minutes later, when the sarcophagus is re-opened, she is nowhere to be seen. Her husband assumes she will soon show up. Days go by, she doesn’t return, and the husband is getting upset.

The unhappy husband visits the magician, his wife, and his pair of cronies who help make the magic happen. The magician scams him with stories and plays on his imagination.

Geraint Wyn Davies is very entertaining as the magician. He is motivated by money, seeking ways to scam those who watch him perform. Davies expertly shows us a conniving character who is faking his way into high society with his charm. Sarah Orenstein is his long-suffering wife, giving him back his nonsense, while acting as a magician’s assistant. Steve Ross and David Collins provide comedy as the magician’s behind-the-scenes helpers. Gordon S. Miller is the unhappy husband who makes us truly question if magic is real, or is it all just in your mind. Beck Lloyd is the beautiful wife who runs off with her paramour played by Jordin Hall. The pair add to the fun as they speed away in a motorboat which operates on foot power.

Act I and act II are interesting and amusing, but unfortunately, the play seems to lag in act III. With less activity, the last half hour seems slow, despite the fact that we are wondering what’s real and what’s not.

While this is supposed to be an updated translation from the original translation of the Italian, some of the language sounds stilted and uncomfortable. Is that just because they are in a hoity-toity society, or is it because the translator was deliberately trying to make it sound as if it’s coming from the Italian?

Nevertheless, it is an entertaining play and leaves you with food for thought. Can magicians create an alternate universe with their magic? Or is it all a scam with ulterior motives?

Grand Magic continues in repertory until September 29 at Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford. Tickets are available at the Stratford Festival by calling 1-800-567-1600 or online at www.stratfordfestival.ca

Photo: Sarah Orenstein (left) as Zaira Marvuglia and Geraint Wyn Davies as Otto Marvuglia with members of the company in Grand Magic. Photo by David Hou.

Grand Magic
By Eduardo De Filippo
In a new version by John Murrell and Donato Santeramo
World Première Translation
Directed By Antoni Cimolino
Performed by Geraint Syn Davies, Gordon S. Miller, Sarah Orenstein, Steve Ross, David Collins, Beck Lloyd, Jordin Hall, et al.
Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford
June 1 to September 29, 2023
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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