The best way I know to describe the experience of Play Dead is that it’s like being trapped in a neo-Baroque funhouse with a dapper madman. In this case the madman is white-suited magician and bizarre crime historian Todd Robbins, who co-authored the script with his director Teller of Penn and. Robbins warns you that he will show you the face of real horror, gives you ample opportunity to make an exit, then proceeds to tell you stories of famous serial murderers, with illustrations of technique. Lights go out, loud noises roar through the small theatre, you get splashed with stuff that probably isn’t blood, but tell that to your imagination, and Robbins does his best to alternate scaring you shitless with making you laugh (often with relief). And the suit doesn’t stay pristinely white for very long.
Being susceptible to all this helps. The hipper you are to magic (as a performance craft) and magicians, the more detached you are from “the art of the con,” the more able to take it all in with a certain degree of bemused recognition, the less Robbins is likely to scare you or take you very much by surprise. In that event, he’s not that much more frightening than Zacherly, Elvira or a rerun of The Addams Family. He’s just miles more elegant than the first two and as much a guilty pleasure as the third. Accent on guilt, I guess. (And yes, I just did give two separate reviews. To some his show will be more of an event than to others.)
But at least there’s a uniqueness of tone and theatrical approach. And that should satisfy everyone, civilians and veterans alike…to some degree.
Just prepare yourself to be picked on…as you sit, put away anything you want to remain dry…and you might not want your collars to be too loose in the dark. That’s not a joke. Trust me. Or you’ll wish you had.
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