DETROIT -- Magic is usually a individual's game, the sly raconteur with, perhaps, a fetching assistant or a willing audience member.
But "The Illusionists," running through May 10 at the Fisher Theatre, turns the craft into a team sport. Over the course of its two hours and 15 minutes, seven magicians throw the audience advanced card tricks, levitations, logic-defying routines and just the right amount of comic schtick -- mostly from Livonia's Liberace-styled Jeff "The Trickster" Hobson and clean-cut Adam "The Futurist" Trent.
Bolstered by a corps of dancers, a pint-sized Charlie Chaplin imitator and a video screen for close-up appreciations (and to divert the eyes at key moments), the show moves at a brisk pace, barely pausing long enough to let you digest that Dan "The Anti-Conjuror" Sperry has just dental-flossed a spearmint Life Saver from inside his throat before Aaron "The Warrior" Crow has a married couple on stage for a flashy, if slightly transparent bow-and-arrow trick.
"The Illusionists" is filled with variations of familiar stunts -- the macabre Sperry chooses to shoot rather than pull a rabbit out of a hat, pulling off the foot to attach to his keychain -- but presented with deft offhandedness and rock concert energy. Kevin "The Inventor" James, another Michigander, saws one of his assistants in half and puts him back together in a manner that defies any guesses about how he does it, and Andrew "The Escapologist" Basso's recreation of Harry Houdini's Water Torture Cell escape is a double-joined marvel of physicality.
Hobson and Trent keep the jokes, some borderline off-color, flowing as quickly as the cards float through their hands, while Yu Ho-Jin, aka The Manipulator and introduced as a first among equals in the cast, is their more artful counterpart, transforming his decks with dizzying precision. "The Illusionists' " only falls flat, significantly, with Sperry's Russian Roulette variation with an audience member, a speed bump at the start of the show's second half that lacked a strong finishing payoff to merit its length. But he made up for it with his next routine, making a series of birds appear, disappear and transform.
Each of the individual Illusionists is masterful in his rite, and their tricks retain all the head-scratching wonder and surprise of the best magic acts. And together they're even better, giving "The Illusionists" an engaging variety and freshness that may even bring you back again, even if only to keep trying to figure out how they do it.
Now through May 10.
The Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit.
Call 313-872-1000 or visit www.broadwayindetroit.com for more details, ticket information and showtimes.
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