Brett Schneider's brand of magic creates Communion | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Brett Schneider's brand of magic creates Communion

The "shared hallucinations" feel like real illusions.

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Brett Schneider promises an evening of magic—card tricks, mind reading, and small-scale hypnotism—but what he delivers is something much richer and more satisfying. Working in a performance space configured so that the audience surrounds him on all sides, he pulls us in, using his art to first entertain us, then beguile us, and then unite us into a shared experience (I wanted just now to write "shared hallucination," but part of me still wants, days after the show, to believe that Schneider's evening of amazing illusions were real).

At one point in the evening I saw the show, Schneider hypnotized two members of the audience who then proceeded, apparently, to communicate telepathically. At another, he seemed to read the minds of dozens of audience members at once. And he did all this while avoiding all of the magician cliches. His ego firmly in check, he dresses in the same casual-Friday clothes as his audience, and speaks in the calm, even, informed voice of a college professor or NPR reporter.

His tricks don't seem like tricks either: they seem like demonstrations. Or open-ended experiments. At one point he refers to the participants in a very complicated card trick—involving easily a fifth of the audience—as his test subjects, as if he hadn't worked out his intended results long before the show started. The result is one of those rare shows that feel timeless while they are being performed but end far too quickly (the show is only 70 minutes long) and linger in the memory.   v

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