My Variety Review: Derren Brown: Secret
Audiences love to be fooled, whether it’s with clever plotting with a twist, the arrival of an unexpected character or even a charming flimflam man with a British accent.
The latter is Derren Brown, and he’s entertaining audiences for a limited run at the Cort Theatre, where he is playing head-scratching mind games and other tricks of the trade on his gleefully willing, how’d-he-do-it subjects. Previously at the Atlantic TheaterCompany two years ago, Brown now expands his show to a Broadway-sized house without losing the sense of intimate wonder. In some ways, it makes his feats of bamboozlement all the more impressive as he sends Frisbees out into the audience to find far-flung volunteers.
A larger theater here — and potentially on tour — simply means there’s more marks happily willing to join this community of fools. That shared sense of surprise is just part of the fun of the show; the other part is its down-to-earth thesis that offers a glimmer of false hope that the ruse can fail.
“We are all trapped within our own heads,” says Brown at the start of the show, and for the next two and a half hours he proves his point by outmaneuvering his subjects with his powers of persuasion, deduction, misdirection, sleight-of-hand, switcheroos and an extraordinary understanding of human behavior.
All of which he freely admits, even poo-pooing the idea of psychics, mentalists and magic. He calls his art “psychological illusionism,” and if you want to intellectualize it, it’s also metaphorically rich. It’s important to know what’s real and what’s easily faked in these times, he says pointedly. The truth is far more complex, he suggests, than the manipulated fakery that scoundrels practice.
It’s a simple yet still visually appealing show with a seemingly stripped-down stage, set in a blue-black void (scenic elements by Takeshi Kata) and dreamily illuminated by Ben Stanton. There’s no Vegas glitz here even if there may be the urge to head to a casino after the show. (Old habits die hard.)