Theater Review: MINDPLAY (World Premiere at The Geffen Playhouse)

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by Tony Frankel on November 22, 2022

in Theater-Los Angeles


No one can deny that Brooklyn-based mentalist Vinny DePonto is a master showman. As with all magicians, the true context of any one-man show is not the tricks (and there are some beauties here) but the patter with audience members. At Geffen Playhouse’s smaller theater, the patrons barely have time to think “how’d he do that” before he’s on to the next story or explanation of what part of the brain holds which part of the memory. Beware that he chooses many in the house to participate, so there’s that nauseous excitement which comes with “Please don’t let him pick on me.” But when he does, the bearded boyish 35-year-old is so affable, warm, and unpretentious that half-way in, you may feel cheated if he doesn’t call on you — even if he is going to tell all of us what is on your mind. He swears that there are no marks in the house, and after he has baffled us with the contents of the minds of five or six patrons, you know it’s true. He has no problem declaring that these are psychological tricks (gee, it sounds like marriage), but that will never stop you from guessing if it’s real or not.

At the end of the day (or night), remember that Mindplay has fun with your mind but it still is a play. Written by DePonto and Josh Koenigsberg, the show skirts profundity, instead offering a few bon mots about how we let our brain play tricks on us. In the world of fake news, it’s surprising that our creators didn’t plunge deeper into our collective psyche. But that’s not what this fun show is going for. The Geffen has been great at taking its bankrolling one-person magic shows, and turning what could have been just a few great tricks into the magic of theater. And under Andrew Neisler‘s fantastical direction, this show is dressed up to the nines of hearts. The great Sibyl Wickersheimer has created an embankment of file cabinets which contain only memories, but spew out paper, telephones and more (I was wondering how many stagehands were behind the scenes). There’s also tight, spectral lighting by Pablo Santiago, and a wickedly sensorial soundscape by Everett Elton Bradman.

photos by Jeff Lorch

Geffen Playhouse’s Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater
10866 Le Conte Avenue in Westwood
Tues-Fri at 7:30; Sat & Sun at 1 and 7
ends on December 18, 2022 EXTENDED to January 22, 2023
for tickets ($39-129), call 310.208.2028 or visit Geffen Playhouse
for more on Vinny DePonto, visit his site

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