The Enigmatist brings magic back to the theater

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If the pandemic has left you in a brain fog, the perfect cure is a visit to the Geffen Playhouse to see the clever “The Enigmatist,” a mind-boggling one-man show by New York Times magician and extraordinary crossword creator David Kwong.

Kwong declares early on that “there is no such thing as magic”, but that every sleight of hand has its roots in a sequence of events that the magician has learned to make a trick work. Contrary to his statement, it is magic that Kwong brings to the audience throughout the 90 minute performance including puzzles, conjuring, cryptography, storytelling and crossword puzzles.

Our night of puzzle-solving started long before we entered the little Geffen theater. We were presented with a map with a map on one side and instructions for solving the four puzzles presented in Geffen’s lobby before taking our seats for the show. As we solved each puzzle, the drivers (Geffen staff) were there to help us with tips and punch our cards. If all the puzzles were solved, we were promised entry into the show.

Members of the public are advised to arrive before curtain time to have time to view and solve the puzzles. We, like most of our audience, solved three puzzles and got clues for the fourth more complex puzzle and were able to access the show.

The foundation of the performance lies in the true story featuring several pioneering cryptologists, the bizarre tale of the Riverbank Research Center, and a certain mystery that has not been solved for decades.

The structure of the performance takes it forward and features four fun puzzles that are solved interactively with audience members and a really good sleight of hand. As a magician, I found the choice of Kwong tricks well suited to the story and the audience, but I would have liked a little more magic and a little less history lessons.

The end result is quite astonishing, when Kwong shows off his exceptional skills while building a crossword puzzle with suggestions from the audience and then revisiting it to reveal his mind-blowing ability to manipulate words.

The take-away point we felt as we stepped out of the Geffen Playhouse was to sort out any issues, you have to look at the big picture in addition to the details and always be open to thinking outside the box. I was grateful that my first live performance in over two years was “The Enigmatist”, bringing the magic and fun back to the stage.

“The Enigmatist” is currently playing at the Geffen Playhouse until November 14, tickets start at $ 39, 90 minutes with no intermission, visit https://www.geffenplayhouse.org.

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