A dazzling coup de théâtre explains the title of the acclaimed English magician, illusionist and mentalist’s thrilling extravaganza Derren Brown: Secret. Prior to this amazing denouement there’s one astonishment after another, all relying on selective audience participation. Subjects are chosen through tossing frisbees out into the theater and those who’ve caught them are invited to go onstage. Adhering to the strict admonition not to give away any specifics, this review is a non-descriptive overview. A banana does figure prominently among the show’s many hilarious visual and verbal running gags.
The shaven-headed, athletic and charismatic Derren Brown is a well-known personality in the United Kingdom due to his award-winning theatrical and television presentations. With his resounding accented voice, engaging showmanship and mystical talents, he commands the stage while appearing in a sleek dark suit, a flowing mystical robe and evening clothes. Mr. Brown discloses that he struggled with his homosexuality before coming out at the age of 31. This revelation enhances his witty persona, along with other personal data imparted along the way.
“Perfectly placed lies” is Brown’s upfront declaration as to how he achieves his effects which are self-admittedly examples of misdirection and psychological manipulation. No matter, it’s an enthralling two and half hours with an intermission as he pulls off a multitude of breathtaking Ricky Jay-style mentalist stunts.
Co-written by Brown, Andy Nyman and Andrew O’Connor, Derren Brown: Secret artfully combines strategic autobiographical details with a philosophical worldview to infuse the illusions with a sense of depth and narrative unity. Mr. Nyman and Mr. O’Connor’s exhilarating direction harnesses Brown’s magnetism with high-caliber stagecraft into an entertaining event that justifies this Broadway engagement.
The stage is often bare expect for a chair and other integral furnishings, but scenic designer Takeshi Kata adds embellishments such as red velvet curtains and other flourishes that achieve visual scope. From straightforward to eerie, Ben Stanton’s textured lighting design bathes the production in striking hues. Sound designer Jill B.C. Du Boff’s adept efforts render musical passages and effects with force. Caite Hevner’s entrancing projection design is crucial for several of the sequences.
Recalling the nostalgia of British music halls as evinced by “Mr. Memory” in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 classic film The 39 Steps while conveying a contemporary sensibility, Derren Brown: Secret is filled with collective wonderment and timeless grandeur.
Derren Brown: Secret (through January 4, 2020)
Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 800-447-7400 or visit http://www.derrenbrownsecret.com
Running time: two hours and 30 minutes including one intermission