Friday, April 6, 2012

"Elephant Room" - Exactly What You Expect, and More!

By Judd Hollander
Photo by Pavel Antonov

Many performers end up looking totally ridiculous on stage, but it takes that special blend of performance and personality to be able to do it with style. Such is the case with the absolutely hilarious Elephant Room, a magical comedy treat for children of all ages, starring those masters of prestidigitation, Dennis Diamond, Louie Magic and Daryl Hannah, now at St. Ann’s Warehouse.

The story takes place at the Elephant Room Society, Chapter 13, Assembly 1009, in Patterson, New Jersey. A place loaded with secrets and wonder, built by little children, government organizations, gamblers, adulterers, and the dreams of the audience members, as Dennis, Louie and Daryl explain as they proceed to hold court, mixing simple magic tricks with ones much more astounding. In short order, the audience is treated to an array of demonstrations ranging from sleight of hand with ropes, playing cards and eggs, the latter appearing and disappearing in a comic line of perfect synchronization; to levitation; one of the group switching places with an audience volunteer; and the creation of a picture of the Dali Lama.

What makes the show really stand out are the completely over the top personalities of the trio, the group making their entrance to a burst of applause, at least that's what it says in the script, which they point out. There's Dennis, looking every bit like a wannabe lothario, one of those people you desperately want to avoid at parties; Louie, who reminds one of a roadie at a rock concert; and Daryl, who looks and sounds like a combination redneck and surfer dude. Although one must admit, they also call to mind the Lone Gunmen trio from the X-Files. Regardless of how they appear to the audience, their overall manner and oh so serious method of performing, playing everything perfectly straight even in the most outlandish of circumstances, only serve to add to the general hilarity of the entire spectacle.

The trio is also not above shameless self-promotion, offering an audience member memorabilia in the form of a baseball cap, numerous t-shirts, DVDs, a magic kit, etc. They also toss in various magical in-jokes (such as when one audience member receives a stuffed white tiger, a reference to the magic act of Siegfried and Roy). There are a few sequences that are perhaps a bit too risqué for the youngsters in the audience, though these are more titillating than naughty, such as a late night telephone call involving Dennis and the afore-mentioned Dali Lama, and Louie's recollections of his childhood magic shop mentor and the rope tricks the fellow taught him. Still, the tales are imparted in a way which will make the children laugh in wonder and adults laugh (or groan) in recognition of what's actually being said.
Dennis, Louie and Daryl perform together seamlessly; whether working as a unit or operating in different areas of the stage where one of the three may be reciting a rambling speech while the others are in the process of doing a trick or routine of some kind. The highlight of the show is extended sequence that starts as a first date between two members of the audience, chosen at random; which then segues into a country song moment about broken hearts, hilariously personified by Daryl; and finally evolves into a comic battle between good and evil, personified by a devil (Louie) and angel (Dennis) as they battle for a human soul. There is also a great amount of physical humor in the show, often presented with over-emphasized gestures, expressions and movement. A sequence where Dennis is struggling with a cinderblock is particularly amusing.

Paul Lazar's directorial style is loose enough to allow the performers to take the show where it needs to go for maximum effect, but at the same time keeps thing on an even keel so not only is it never boring for the adults in the audience, but it's also interesting enough to hold the attention of the younger set. Mimi Lien's set is nicely tacky, looking like one of those endless hotel rooms across America, but which in reality is so much more. Costumes worn by the group and designed by Christal Weatherly are nicely flamboyant, ranging from "man on the street" clothes to ones worn by a flamboyant Las Vegas lounge singer. Sound design by Nick Kourtides is very enjoyable and totally appropriate to the various sequences presented and moods suggested.

Fun, frivolous and fantastical to watch, Elephant Room is an enjoyable feast for the eyes with more than a few things that will tickle one’s funny bone quite severely.

Elephant Room
Performed by Dennis Diamond, Louie Magic and Daryl Hannah
Created by Steve Cuiffo, Trey Lyford* and Geoff Sobelle*
Directed by: Paul Lazar
Set Designer: Mimi Lien
Costume Designer: Christal Weatherly
Lighting designer: Christopher Kuhl;
Sound Designer: Nick Kourtides
Stage Manager: Jill Beckman
General Manager: Dorit Avganim
Production Manager, Technical Director: Thomas Snyder
Loxodontics: The Puppet Kitchen
Assistant Technical Director: Ian Guzzone
Associated Set Designer: Amy Rubin
Assistant Stage Manger: Zane Johnston
Lighting Assistant: Adam Blumenthal
Sound Operator: Susan Adelizzi
Deck Hand: Sean Martin
Wardrobe: Becka Landau

St. Ann
’s Warehouse
38 Water Street

DUMBO, Brooklyn
Tickets: 718-254-8779 or

Running Time: 75 minutes, no intermission

Closes: April 8th

No comments: