Steve Cuiffo and Aubrey Dollar
in Orange Lemon Egg Canary
(Photo © Joe Satto)
Steve Cuiffo and Aubrey Dollar
in Orange Lemon Egg Canary
(Photo © Joe Satto)
There are several nifty magic tricks performed in Rinne Groff's uneven new play Orange Lemon Egg Canary, now at PS 122. Sadly, as directed by Michael Sexton, the production lacks the theatrical magic necessary to make it sparkle.

The play's protagonist is Great (Steve Cuiffo), a magician with a checkered past that includes a messy break-up with his former assistant/lover Egypt (Laura Kai Chen), a drinking problem, and a tendency to cheat on his girlfriends. He has just begun a romance with Trilby (Aubrey Dollar), a waitress who wants Great to teach her magic. However, he is reluctant to reveal the secrets of his trade, while she has a few secrets of her own. Added into the mix is the ghost of Henrietta (Emily Swallow), assistant to Great's magician grandfather; she's the catalyst for events that could lead to either tragedy or redemption for all involved.

Groff has crafted an engaging story, and Great tells a particularly enchanting tale about the play's titular magic trick that his grandfather once performed just for him. But the play's dialogue is often awkward, and we never really find out enough about any of the characters to make us truly care about them.

Cuiffo has a goofy charm and carries off his sleight of hand tricks with aplomb. Unfortunately, he's not so good at playing drunk, which he's called upon to do several times during the show. Dollar lacks the dynamism and charisma that Trilby needs to have in order for the show to work; she also has very little chemistry with Cuiffo, which is a huge problem. As Egypt, Chen indicates many of her emotions, but has a quirky presence that is often compelling. Swallow endows Henrietta with a vibrant energy, yet she is saddled with several pronouncements on the nature of magic and illusion that are rather clunky. Rounding out the cast are two hunky assistants, Dan Amboyer and Brian Murphy.

Andromache Chalfant's set design frames the primary playing area with a curtain, rows of broken down theater seats, strips of footlights, and even a ladder. It's a nice comment on the way the theater's own magic and illusions are constructed. Oana Botez-Ban's costumes are quite lovely, especially the outfits for Henrietta and Egypt.

At the performance I attended, the work of sound designer Eric Shim and lighting designer Ben Stanton was marred by some minor technical glitches: Swallow's body mic, used to give her voice an ethereal sound appropriate to a ghost, wasn't always on when it was supposed to be, and several of the lighting transitions seemed too slow.

Sexton is to be commended for presenting some of the trickier bits of stage magic required by the script in an entertaining fashion, but he hasn't pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and made Orange Lemon Egg Canary a fully worthwhile experience.