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August 21, 2012

Illusionistory: The History of Mystery

This evening I returned to the Fringe for an adventure in magic at The Cook Theatre.  Illusionistory: The History of Mystery is a tour conducted by Madame Esmerelda Fallendo, a gypsy played by Taylor Martin, through the origins of magic.  Madame Esmerelda is assisted throughout the show by MadMen Magic (Jennifer Cavanaugh, Matt Fisher, and Devin Stewart) who offer up a couple nifty tricks of their own.

As an aside, before I talk about Illusionistory, let me tell you that you have to visit the Indiana Landmark Center which is the beautiful home of The Cook Theatre.  While this location is truly on the fringe of all the Fringe stages, it is well worth the excursion to see the wonderful renovation job that was performed.  After seeing the center, you’ll have a good idea what $10 million will get you.

Illusionistory is a fun telling from a historical perspective of how many popular magic tricks came to be.  Madame Esmerelda mixed humor with history as she made balls appear and disappear from under cups, silver rings connect and disconnect, and water become wine.  The show was perfect family fun without and questionable content.  It also offered some fun for lovers of QR codes, which you were invited to scan throughout the show for more historical information

Like many shows at IndyFringe, Illusionistory suffers from one troubling issue.  Overhype. It’s like when a friend recommends a movie by telling you it’s the greatest movie of all time.  As soon as the friend says it, the movie is doomed to failure in your eyes.  Nothing can live up to your expectations.  Illusionistory did just that to me.  I read the line, “Taylor Martin’s 8th Indy Fringe will be amazing,” and I believed it.   I applaud all of the performers for their skill in presenting many illusions that I could not perform even with several years of practice (Needless to say, I’d lose interest in practicing after a week so practicing for years is out of the question), but I had seen all these tricks before and while some were impressive, none were “amazing.”

I’ll admit it. I’m jaded.  A bit cynical. But who isn’t?  In the age of David Blaine, vanishing skyscrapers, and white tigers attacking their magician trainers, a smaller magic show needs a real hook to keep the audience off balance.  I guess the show was meant to be more about story telling with some sampling of magic, and Martin’s gypsy queen does an excellent job in engaging the audience, but I came away wanting more.  More what?  More “amazing.”

I hate being negative, but after seeing one show where I was told that I, “may laugh myself to death,” only to survive without even an minor injury, I really was ready to see something amazing.  Ultimately, I don’t blame the shows or the performers.  I blame myself.  What’s the saying? “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, I must really be a fool.”  Now I know.  Actually, I already knew, but I had to remind myself that one of the greatest things about IndyFringe is that you never really know what you’re going to see until the lights go down and the performers take the stage.  The thrill of potentially picking a winner; the aspect of taking a gamble on a show is all part of the IndyFringe experience because the Festival is a “celebration of theatre.”  And Illusionistory fulfills that calling.

Oh, look!   Here’s a show that says it’s, “better than Cats!”  I know what I’m going to see next.



4 Responses to ‘Illusionistory’

  1. Taylor Martin on August 22, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Thanks for an honest review. To us, the mega illusions are not being able to be done in a theatre and are usually shown on a video screen during a show. As for Blaine, his card tricks are wonderful, but the buried alive and other such events are just stunts. I guess if I could get a theatre to allow me to stand without moving for 33 hours, that would be good. But, I do thank you for the review. It was honest and from the heart. Again, thank you.

  2. Taylor Martin on August 22, 2012 at 8:25 am

    And, P.S., I hated “Cats.”

  3. Taylor Martin on August 23, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    By the way, where have you seen “water to wine” performed before? As far as I know, it’s only been reported to have been performed once.

  4. Jack Lugar on August 26, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Taylor: Thank you for your comments. I appreciate that you are aware of the feedback and willing to address it unlike most performers. I also appreciate your support of other performers at the Fringe. You are truly in this for art and love and not for self adulation. I will make it a point to see and support your future work.

    I wasn’t a big fan of Cats either, but I’m not an Andrew Lloyd Webber fan… except for Starlight Express because you can’t beat singing and roller skating at the same time. That’s talent!

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