Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“Death and Harry Houdini”

Highly Recommended****Magic is in the air in the Chicago theater community! And the magician of the hour is none other than Harry Houdini ( now on two area stages), the greatest escape artists of our time! The House Theatre is celebrating their 10th year of operation with a revival of the very first production they presented, “Death and Harry Houdini, in a new venue with a retooled, re-imagined edition of the story of how Houdini found the love of the tricks he did as well as started creating the illusions and the escapes that made him famous. Written and directed by Nathan Allen with some fine choreography by Tommy Rapley and some original music by Kevin O’Donnell, this show could not be the show that it is without the key ingredint,Dennis Watkins, a talented actor with a winning personality and the ability to make the magic that makes this experience a magical one for the audience as well.

The Chopin Theater stage area appears to have been gutted for this sparkling production and audience members sit on both sides of the action and large platforms on the other two sides. There are hanging objects from the ceiling surrounding the stage area as we watch the two Weiss brothers grow into men ( Weiss is the real name , not Houdini). The story may not be actual or even factual, but it is very close to what most of us heave heard over the years. This show is really about the magic of Watkins ( and even some ticks he has trained the others to do), magic that is “up close and personal”. Check out www.denniswatkins.net


There are small tricks and huge ones including THE major escape- upside down into a tank of water that is locked and he is chained and cuffed- which one would think might be the finale, but there is even more. Houdini, in his entire life challenged death and stated that he would conquer it. While we all know that this isn’t possible, perhaps, becoming a legend that lives on decades after his death may just have been what he meant.

The rest of the energetic cast in this slick production that will keep your focus from start to end is composed of: Shawn Pfautsch as Theo ( Harry’s brother) and Dr. Lynn as well as Dingwall; Carolyn Defria as Bess, his wife; Marika Mashburn as His mother,Cecilia Weiss,Trista Smith as Margery the Medium, Abu Ansari as Mayer Weiss,Doyle and a young boy;Kevin Stangler as “Death” Hilmar and boy 2 and Johnny Arena as”The Ringmaster”/Narrator. They all are involved in the big magic trick as well. Just a note- at tonight’s opening, during Watkins “walk on glass barefoot” a bottle fell in the audience, he turned and said” want to toss this up here”! These are loos actors despite the tension in what they are doing. Another magical moment in the opening night performance- a gun did not go off- the actors ad-libbed and got a laugh and some applause for getting through a difficult period. That’s what makes The House such fun- they are having fun with us and for us, making the theatrical experience special- magical!

“Death and Harry Houdini” will continue at The Chopin Theatre located at1543 W. Division ( easy access by public transportation) at Milwaukee and Ashland Avenues) through March 11 th with performances on Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 7 p.m.

Tickets are a mere $25. a great value and can be purchased by calling 773-769-3832 or visiting www.thehousetheatre.com

STUDENTS with ID tickets are $10. Rush tickets can also be purchased on day of performance ( subject to availability) 

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