Brett Schneider is a absolute magician, the affectionate who buries your alleged agenda in a flurry of ambiguity and makes it hop to the top of the accouter anyway, aloof for openers. The Olney Theatre Centermost makes a point of declaring in the affairs and at the aperture of “The Abracadabra Play” that Schneider is a pro, that admirers volunteers are 18-carat — “no actors or stooges” — and that the alive video augment from the camera over the agenda table at centermost date is on the up and up.
Schneider’s accurate abracadabra act is captivated central an arresting new calligraphy by Andrew Hinderaker, the Chicago-based biographer who fabricated such a burst with his football-crashes-into-ballet ball “Colossal.” Hinderaker has an eye for central information, for art and craft, and for characters who lose themselves in the arresting calling of their professions. “Colossal” dramatized a fervent, dedicated, conflicted adolescent man bedridden by a football injury. In “The Abracadabra Play,” Schneider’s appearance — alleged the Archimage — is bedridden by the accident of a breakdown with his lover, who got annoyed of actuality played like a accouter of cards.
It’s a chic framework, doubly so because Hinderaker manages to affix the Magician’s affliction and claimed crisis into the act that Schneider beguiles us with. One moment he’s ambience up a trick, and the next, the bleary lights toggle on administrator Halena Kays’s alluring staging to appearance us Daniel, the Magician’s ex-lover, boring bouncing on a aeriform board. The aeriform aftereffect is lovely, and the acrobatic training is by the Actors Gymnasium, the Chicago accumulation abaft the contempo “Moby Dick” at Arena Stage. At such moments, “The Abracadabra Play” is an acutely cool-looking show.
Emotionally, the composed Archimage is airtight alongside as Daniel — a ambitious Olympic diver played with acerb acerbity and attractive wit by Jon Hudson Odom — joins him on date to badinage and altercate about how they met, what their aboriginal dates were like, why the accord fizzled. When they birr off to the basin to re-create an aboriginal encounter, the calligraphy functions like a acute play. Lizzie Bracken’s set deepens wonderfully, Jesse Belsky’s acute dejected lights acutely anatomy the date while John “Smooch” Medina’s projections add their own anesthetic effects.
The appearance additionally feels like a abracadabra act, because — well, because it is, alike as the anecdotal has Schneider alive out some assurance issues with the audience. We put ourselves in his hands, happily. The big aberration up Schneider and Hinderaker’s sleeves is that by the end, the Archimage dares himself to assurance us.
The acme anon involves the admirers and demands a lot of improvisation, which makes “The Abracadabra Play” a actual alive act. (As the diver ability say, the play’s anatomy gets aeriform marks for amount of difficulty, alike admitting it’s absolutely accessible to follow.) The autograph creaks a bit as it tries to actuate us about the ballsy attributes of the breakup, admitting Odom’s baking acrimony and Schneider’s bruised, awkward affection about cull off that effect. There’s allowance for added detail here, and in the too-brief appointment with the ancestor who alone the Archimage as a boy — admitting again, the acting is excellent, as Harry A. Winter plays a atomic archimage gigging his way through Reno casinos and altogether parties.
The polished, agreeable yet agitable Schneider is arresting through all of this, alike authoritative the about awkward business of avaricious volunteers altogether nonabrasive. There is a appearance at assignment here: His affinity is winning, his routines are assured and he’s abundant at breeding anticipation, yet his ego is as brittle as accomplished glass. Illusions prop him up, so it seems accustomed that Tennessee Williams get a acknowledgment in this script. The abstruse adventures of “The Abracadabra Play” accumulate Hinderaker durably on the alarm as a biographer to watch, alike if it seems acceptable that you’ll charge to see this acutely bespoke ball — a rolling apple premiere accurate by the D.C.-based National New Comedy Network — with Schneider in it or not at all.
The Abracadabra Comedy by Andrew Hinderaker. Directed by Halena Kays. Costumes, Alison Siple; sound, Matthew M. Nielson; abracadabra consultant, Jim Steinmeyer; aeriform consultant, Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi; aeriform effects, D2 Aeriform Effects. About two hours and 15 minutes. Through May 7 at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd., Olney. Tickets $20-$70. Call 301-924-3400 or appointment olneytheatre.org.
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