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Two Swedes challenge their audience with mind-boggling feats of illusion.

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Peter Brynolf and Jonas Ljung in a scene from their show “Stalker” at New World Stages (Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel)

[avatar user=”Joel Benjamin” size=”96″ align=”left”] Joel Benjamin, Critic[/avatar]

The psychological acrobatics of mentalists and illusionists have entertained, befuddled and thrilled audiences for millennia.  A new entry into this exciting category is Brynolf & Ljung: Stalker now in residence at New World Stages.

Peter Brynolf and Jonas Ljung, two coolly elegant Swedes—who wrote the show with Edward Af Sillén (also the show’s director)—perform one mind-boggling feat after another, fed by information culled from the audience.  The two performers also speak of their own lives, although why they have to describe themselves as “two heterosexuals” is questionable.

They begin by inviting some members of the audience to come up and have their photographs taken.  These photos are arranged in columns on a huge white board dead center on the stage.  This board and the photos will figure prominently in the show’s denouement in which all the seemingly divergent threads of the show are jaw-droppingly woven together in a reveal that is just shy of unbelievable despite multiple hints tossed off by the two.

There are several boxes in which the audience members deposit slips of paper revealing personal information.  These intimate bits also became fodder for the two Swedes in surprising ways.

Peter Brynolf and audience members in a scene from their show “Stalker” at New World Stages (Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel)

A Rubik’s cube becomes the central gimmick in yet another unfathomable bit, one of many bits that comprise Stalker, some bordering on shtick, but all amusing and, more importantly, fascinating.

The show depends entirely on audience participation, always an iffy premise.  An overly arduous elimination stunt culminates with the name of an audience member miraculously revealed, but the time it takes to get to that point is overlong.

The show suffers from too many such lulls in the action.  The endless winnowing down of the volunteers inhibits the pacing of the show.

Brynolf and Ljung aren’t the warmest performers compared, for example, with the stars of two recent similar shows Derren Brown: Secret and Ali Wind’s Inner Circle, but they are pleasant and appealing and certainly deliver the goods, delighting the audience with their trickery, including a particularly brilliant use of a cake and a cell phone.

Jonas Ljung in a scene from their show “Stalker” at New World Stages (Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel)

The technical production seems easygoing but is really topnotch including the sometimes surprising lighting by Jamie Roderick, the excellent sound design by Drew Levy and the varied video design by Omanovic Production which includes the now ubiquitous use of mobile TV cameras dragged throughout the theater.  The images, projected on a large screen, focus the show in amusing ways.

Audiences always want to be surprised and thrilled by what is incomprehensible and these two guys do fill that bill.

Brynolf & Ljung: Stalker (through September 1, 2024)

Lifeline Entertainment and Penn & Teller Present

New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, visit

Running time:  90 minutes without an intermission

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About Joel Benjamin (562 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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