It’s An Illusion!

rainpan 43, elephant room @ museum of contemporary art, 09 november 2013.

Rainpan 43’s Elephant Room is a highbrow magic show. If you are a bit dubious, so are the performers: Louie Magic, Dennis Diamond, and Daryl Hannah are three illusionists who have created a self-conscious magic show, a meta-magic show. In doing so, they seek to place the audience and themselves in an uncertain space, somewhere between Las Vegas showroom and contemporary art museum theater, with all the implications for class and taste that this suggests.

Rainpan 43, Elephant Room, photo: Gene Nelms
Rainpan 43, Elephant Room. Photo: Gene Nelms.

Much of the production feels like a really good episode of Wayne’s World or perhaps Clerks or Weird Science. The magicians acted out a certain kind of adolescent male character, the geek who turns out to have cool tricks up his sleeve, quite literally.

But the best part of the show came at the end, and had nothing to do with illusions or magic tricks at all. Taking on a silent comedy persona, say Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton, Dennis Diamond began a recitation of past magicians. It tapped into the whole sad clown theatrical tradition. These illusionists from the past, gone and almost completely forgotten, could not be recovered by any trick of the magician, but only by the trick of theatrical presentation. It was this engagement with the history of illusionists, not the tricks themselves, that summoned the spirits of magicians past up to the present. There was a kind of neediness expressed that grounded the other gags in something far more psychologically compelling. Suddenly Elephant Room had become a seance. It had the feel of a recitation of the dead, as if it was art, not magic, that in the end had the capacity to play the biggest tricks of all.

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