The estranged members of a magic act reunite on stage during The New Bad Boys of Magic, a one-act play now holding performances as a part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival.
Daniel Donohue and Eric Siegel star as Dan and Eric, two down on their luck magicians who work through their issues in the middle of one of Dan’s performances. They haven’t seen each other in years, and Eric’s appearance is a shock.
Despite the misleading promotional art for the play, Dan is hardly a “bad boy” of magic. On the contrary, he’s a swell kind of guy who has to make a living doing kids birthday parties. It wasn’t always so bad. When he and Eric were together, they were an act in Vegas. Unfortunately, Eric took to the bottle and now he’s a homeless drunk.
He barges in on Eric’s family friendly show, drunk and belligerent, and things quickly turn R rated. Over the course of an hour, they work through their issues, and actually perform some nifty tricks, making “The New Bad Boys” time well spent, if you like sleight of hand and edgy humor.
Donohue and Siegel are engaging actors, and they play their roles quite well. Donohue has a boyish charm about him that makes him quickly likable, while Siegel easily slips into the part of a complete asshole that can’t let go of his grudges. Their believable relationship is what holds the play together, despite its shortcomings.
Does Siegel play a good drunk? Not really. Maybe it was the nerves of opening night, but his version of an alcoholic comes across as play acting. Likewise, the exchanges between the actors felt stiff at times, as if they were still getting comfortable with the material. I suppose with more shows under their belts, the lines will sound more authentic and the illusion of whether you’re seeing a play or actual events will get pulled off more successfully.
Speaking of illusions, the magic tricks are great fun for the audience. The best involved a bottle of 151- proof rum and had some audience members gasping. On the flip side, a lengthy card trick that involved storytelling wasn’t quite as successful. The cards were difficult to see from my seat, and since the bit was so long, it was difficult to maintain enthusiasm.
I suppose the limitations of a tiny theater (I think it sat 50, maybe) may be a reason behind the difficulty pulling off this trick. But every magician knows they have to play the whole room, and the room I was in had a hard time following the trick. They might consider adding more and different tricks to replace this one.
On the same issue of their room, despite the tiny stage size, Donohue and Siegel need to use more of their surroundings. Too often, the stage direction was the two of them standing center stage, facing each other, shutting out their audience. The confines may have been tight, but there was plenty of space considering they had limited props. Considering that the show’s director, Jonathan Hymen, is a veteran of Chicago theater, I hope they can work this out.
Nevertheless, the actors, both disciples of Chicago’s Second City, and whose work has appeared on TBS and Funny and Die, know how to entertain and make you laugh. The New Bad Boys of Magic is very funny, and if they can continue to pull off that trick, the other elements will fall into place.
The New Bad Boys of Magic play at the Hollywood Fringe Festival June 17 at 3:30pm, and June 24 at 10pm. All performances are at the Flight Theatre at the Complex, 6472 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90038.
Tickets are $10 and can only be purchased online, at www.hff17.com/4501, or by phone by calling (323) 455-4585.