November 14, 2003





Few new tricks up this 'Act's' sleeve


All entertainers are messed-up head cases running from squalid, unloving childhoods into the unquestioning embrace of the audience.


Sound familiar? Then "Disappearing Act," a flimsy evening of warmed-over magic tricks and pop psychology, has no breaking news, and scant entertainment value, to offer.


Micah Cover stars as Sonny Aquinas, a twentysomething magician whose act, or what we see of it, is engagingly new-school and conversational. He pulls off some striking feats with an empty paper bag and what look like shifting hot coals.


But the tricks are few and far between, and they're poorly integrated into a perfunctory narrative: Nubile psych grad student Molly (Jennifer Chu) is writing her thesis on magicians. Before you can say "shazam" she's hopped into Sonny's bed, though to her frustration physical intimacy is all he has to offer. How to get him to open up about his painful past? And while we're at it, what is Molly hiding?


As tiresomely simplistic as Peter Fox's script is, his direction is just as inept, with the callow Cover playing scene after scene with his head turned upstage. Seasoned trouper Jeff Doucette provides some matter-of-fact pathos as a blarney-spouting, iron lung-toting coot who claims to be Sonny's long-lost father.


Joel Stoffer's simple, striking set works best for a lyrical, low-lighted magic sequence--incidentally, one of the few times the magician's secretive art gets some eloquent words that actually relate to Sonny's personal "issues." There's also a lovely scene in which Sonny describes his first encounter with magic, as an altar boy at Mass.


Mostly, though, "Disappearing Act" has its heart on its sleeve rather than having any tricks up it.

Rob Kendt


"Disappearing Act," presented by Jenine Smith (producer) at the Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Dec. 21. $15-17.50. (323) 960-7789. 2 hours.