‘Stalker' A review of Off-Broadway show

‘Stalker' A  review of Off-Broadway show
Peter Brynolf & Jonas Ljung in "Stalker" photo by Jeremy Daniel

By Elyse Trevers

I love magic and illusions. I don’t want to know how they work; I just want to sit with my mouth agape and enjoy the show. Besides, as a critic, I wouldn’t want to reveal any secrets

A new Off-Broadway show featuring magic called  “Stalker” reminds us how easy it is for us to be watched and our privacy invaded.  Although it is an ostensible premise, we don't know how easy it is to learn about others' identities until the end of the show.

The show stars Peter Brynolf and Jonas Ljung, two attractive Swedish performers who made their breakthrough on “Britain's Got Talent” and went on to appear on several Swedish TV shows. Most impressive among their credentials is that the show is produced by Penn & Teller, two of the most famous illusionists of our time. I figured if Penn & Teller thought they were good; they must be.  And they were! 

One thing about magic and illusions is that you cannot truly appreciate it unless you witness it yourself and even then, you might be skeptical. Another thing is how difficult it is to describe the astonishment you feel in watching the magic unfold.  

One of the first tricks involved pairing up two guests in the audience. Brynolf & Ljung put a cassette tape in the machine on stage playing a romantic song which continued to play during the entire trick. They gave instructions.  ‘Everyone who is single stand up. Over 40 sit down, under 20 sit down.’ And so it went until there were only two people left standing. Oscar stood in the front row on the right and Alisa was way in the back on the left. They didn't know one another.Then the performers removed the cassette from the player on the stage and revealed the names on the tape to the audience - Alisa and Oscar.

How do they do that? I dunno but the 11-year-old and I sat there with our mouths open in amazement.

That’s the way the entire 90 minutes at the New World Stages went. Brynolf & Ljung knew things or figured things out or read faces or created illusions. They identified people and ‘read’ people’s minds. They even got two audience members to read each other's minds. 

Some of the routines were somewhat complex involving several participants from the audience and some ‘tricks’ ran much longer than others. A few of the illusions were small ones, ”close-up magic”  involving card tricks. The pair went into the audience and selected participants,and the videographer who moved around with them flashed the proceedings onto the screen on the stage. 

The illusions and ‘magic’ were fun and incredible but descriptions pale in the actual experience of seeing them, or better yet participating in them. At these shows, there is always slight tension as you wait to see who will be selected. 

At the beginning, the show assistants asked for 25 people to volunteer to come on stage and have their pictures taken. These photos were posted on the front board onstage and definitely increased the chance of being called to participate in the show.

 At the very end the performers shared how one of the illusions was manipulated. It was complex, a bit unsettling but also a bit awesome. I personally didn't need to know it, but it was fascinating and maybe helped some of the more curious in the audience. 

How do they do their illusions? You can see some of their work on YouTube but it still won’t give you the same feeling you get in person. 

Brynolf & Ljung are skilled and entertaining and confounded us all. Delivering her highest praise, the 11-year-old, who has seen more than a dozen Broadway shows, said it best after the show. “That’s crazy!”   

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