Absence of Magic
nytheatre.com review by Wendy Remington
September 14, 2006
There is absolutely nothing I like better than a show that makes me sit gape-jawed like a four-year-old at the circus. Eric Davis and Sue Morrison's Absence of Magic at the Brick Theater's Clown Festival is exactly that kind of a show.
The show opens with a stunning set of images and never lets down from there. Davis plays a clown in search of his name, exiled to a desolate space peopled by monsters requiring constant vigilance on his part, with no one for company other than a disassembled skeleton with whom he has a problematic relationship and—at this particular moment—the audience. Vacillating wildly between being aggressively and bleakly cynical and incredibly endearing, Davis tours us around his world and tutors the audience on the dangers of this place, all the time trying to find his way out. Through building himself various protections from the monsters and taking us through his tasks and projects, Absence of Magic becomes a heartfelt exploration of creativity, artistic legacy, and self-doubt with a superbly delicate touch.
Davis is extraordinarily skilled at taking the particular moments presented by the crossover between a particular performer and a particular audience and bringing them to their extreme. The transition between scripted material and improv was absolutely seamless and made this audience aware of what a singular event this particular performance was. The sense of play extended to the audience and encouraged an interplay between audience and actor that I have rarely seen accomplished, where the audience's imagination was as equally engaged as the performer's.
Great Clown is always performance at its most pure. And this show is everything I love about performance and everything I love about Clown in a pure and delightful form. It's rare to find a show that completely encourages the audience to wear their hearts on their sleeves and their delight straight and unabashedly on their faces. Absence of Magic a perfect marriage of sophisticated themes and the sheer delight you allowed yourself when you were four at the circus.