If the pandemic has left you with brain fog, the perfect remedy is a visit to the Geffen to see the clever “The Enigmatist,” a mind-twisting one-man show from magician and New York Times crossword creator extraordinaire David Kwong.
Kwong states early on that “There is no such thing as magic,” but that each sleight of hand has roots in a sequence of events the magician has learned to make a trick work. Contrary to his statement, it is magic that Kwong brings to the audience throughout the 90-minute performance featuring puzzles, prestidigitation, cryptography, storytelling and crossword puzzles.
Our night of puzzle solving started well before we entered the Geffen’s small theater. We were presented a card with a map on one side and instructions to solve the four puzzles presented in the Geffen lobby before taking our seats for the show. As we solved each puzzle, conductors (Geffen staff) were around to help with hints and punch our cards. If all puzzles were solved, we were promised entry into the show.
Audience members are advised to arrive prior to curtain time to enable time to view and solve the puzzles. We, like most of our audience, solved three puzzles and got hints for the fourth more intricate puzzle and gained entry to the show.
The foundation of the performance lies in the true story featuring several pioneering cryptologists, the strange history of the Riverbank research facility and a certain mystery that has gone unsolved for decades.
The structure of the performance keeps it moving along and features four fun puzzles that are solved interactively with audience members and some very good sleight of hand. As a magician, I found Kwong’s choice of tricks a good fit for the story and the audience, but I would have liked a little more magic and a little less history lesson.
The end result is quite stunning, when Kwong shows off his exceptional skills while constructing a crossword puzzle with audience suggestions and then revisiting it to reveal his mind-boggling ability to manipulate words.
The take-away we felt when we exited the Geffen was to solve any problem you have to look at the overall picture in addition to the details and always be open to think outside of the box. I was grateful that my first live performance in more than two years was “The Enigmatist,” bringing magic and fun back to the stage.
Catch David Kwong in the “The Enigmatist” at the Geffen Playhouse currently playing through November 14. Tickets start at $39. The show is 90-minutes without intermission. For tickets, visit: https://www.geffenplayhouse.com.