Peter B. Schmitz (center) and company
in Hypnotik
(© Lee Wexler/Images For Innovation)
Peter B. Schmitz (center) and company
in Hypnotik
(© Lee Wexler/Images For Innovation)
"We may think we're here for entertainment, but it is reality that we crave," says a character in Hypnotik: The Seer Will Doctor You Now, presented by New Stage Theatre Company at Theatre for the New City. However, this tiresome work, conceived and directed by Ildiko Nemeth, is neither realistic nor entertaining.

Co-written by Nemeth with Colm O'Shea and Marie Glancy O'Shea, the play is loosely inspired by the stage clairvoyant Eric Jan Hanussen, a popular entertainer with possibly real psychic abilities, who lived during the time of Hitler's rise to power in Germany.

However, despite stylishly designed costumes from Jessica Sofia Mitrani that have Weimar cabaret influences, some German phrases, and sinister hints that could be interpreted as referencing Nazism, the play feels too disconnected from that era to be of historical interest. Likewise, parallels to contemporary entertainments like reality television are not really emphasized, making the intentions behind the creation of the piece somewhat vague.

The bulk of the show's action centers on a man (Peter B. Schmitz) claiming to be a seer who will help people work through their unspoken fears and desires in front of a live audience. The assembled "volunteers" include a Lieutenant (Brandon Olson), an actress turned Mayor's wife (Kaylin Lee Clinton), a prominent film director (Chris Tanner), a recently widowed baroness (Sarah Lemp), and a man initially identified as her driver (Markus Hirnigel), who is obviously more than he appears to be.

None of the actors are able to give much depth to their rather stock roles, although Schmitz does demonstrate a commanding presence in his direct addresses to the audience, and Lemp distinguishes herself by fiercely committing to an orgiastic dance sequence, choreographed by Julie Atlas Muz.

The onstage participants undergo the Seer's rather unique form of psychotherapy, which ranges from reliving the origins of sexual dysfunction to communing with the dead. But despite the sensationalistic subject matter, such sequences feel overly contrived and full of badly written dialogue. There are some provocative undercurrents to the film director's session, which contains pointed commentary on art and propaganda. Similarly, a plot twist towards the end of the play proves surprisingly effective, forcing a reconsideration of the meaning of all that has come before.

But by the time that happens, audience members may be so bored by the tedious goings-on that they're unlikely to care.