In the spring of 2015, North Coast Repertory opened Now You See It. This “magical” comedy takes place in a 1920s drawing room of the Summersby couple, played by Ken McFadden and Allison Minick.
The play begins with Oriole (John Greenleaf), the couple’s British butler dawning a circus ring master outfit, emerging on stage in a drunken stupor. He pulls a few quick magic tricks to ease us into the tone of the show–silly and hazy? That’s the best I have for it. Because something about this show simply doesn’t stick. Soon the Summersby couple enters for a long scene of dialogue that leaves you feeling very little sympathy for their posh relationship, as they come off shallow and unlikeable. Marie-Louise has become wise to the fact that her former husband was unfaithful. This man has passed away, but remains a part Marie-Louise’s life through a portrait above the mantel. This image serves as a reminder to her that husbands are unfaithful creatures. Her new husband works to soothe her worries with his work on the Suffrage Committee, appearing as a champion for women and altogether not unfaithful, but she will not be consoled.
Shaftesburry-Phipps (David McBean) enters to steal the scene and the show. He is a long lost friend returned from India to win back his long lost love, Marie-Louise. He heard about her late husbands death, but he arrived too late to win her hand. This character speaks in fragmented phrases with over the top delivery, offering the right spin that this farce needs. As he fights for her heart, single handedly winning the hearts of the audience, Summersby works to cover up an affair that leads his mistresses husband to show up at the house. Vole (Ruff Yeager) evokes real sympathy that Summersby fails to elicit. His towering stature and lower class accent mixed with his care for his wife push the second act along in a much needed way. A farce wouldn’t be complete without a classic chase scene with the characters rushing and weaving on and off stage.
In the end, the innocent overcome and the villain will be punished. I must add “will be”, since the audience does not see this take place, but the characters discuss it.The end leaves one feeling rather unsatisfied. Instead of acting out what would resolve the plot, the action is merely talked out. I felt as if I had missed out on something. Act 1 was used to set up Act II, but Act II could not deliver. Most of the play revolves around what happened in the past, off stage, or will happen in the future, which severely limits any emotional connection the audience may have.
Unfortunately, the magic in this show was very tangential. The story does not need these magical elements; it acts as a cover up for a poor book. I almost wish the show had relied on the magic more; weaving it into the story in a more interesting way. The weakest character, the butler Oriole, uses magic the most but his drunken character is not very endearing. Since the played in a small theatre and these magical elements could have been very impressive; however, they missed the mark.
Photos by North Coast Repertory.