BRIAN SILLIMAN: So you went to the [San Diego] Zoo?
ME: Yeah. The giraffes were the BOMB!
BRIAN: (Right there with me.) Can someone tell me how they can see a giraffe or an elephant in person and still not believe in magic?
* * *
The above is a snippet of a conversation Brian Silliman and I had after my recent trip to San Diego.
Silliman believes in magic. Or rather, he believes in the power and importance of believing in magic in a very sad and dreary world. He, with the help of director Abe Goldfarb, a top-notch cast and original musical score, demonstrates this for us in a very sad, funny and lovely play called The Magic of Mrs. Crowling, playing at the Horse Trade Kraine Theatre.
I strongly suggest you check it out.
In The Magic of Mrs. Crowling, a young boy named Kickin is dying of cancer and has about six to eight weeks to live. Yes, he's scared of dying, but what's worse, is that he's going to die before the final book in the Henry Shield series comes out. His father, Ramsey, wants him to stop whining about (and reading) those stupid fantasy books and accept the fact that he's not long for this world.
You see, to say that Ramsey hates this sword and sorcery, fantasy and magic malarkey is kind of like saying that New York City is bigger than a cat. Also, to say that Ramsey is a callous prick is kind of like saying...well, see for yourself:
KICKEN: Can I go back to bed now?
RAMSEY: Absolutely not. You have way too much work to do.
KICKEN: I don't want to fill out any forms!
RAMSEY: Well I'm sure you don't want to die either, but you really have no choice.
To be fair, Ramsey's had to bury his wife and is still shaken up about it. Now that he's having to get ready to bury his son shortly thereafter, he does not even entertain the idea of fantasy or escapism. Hey, his son can lose himself in those stupid books; Ramsey's the one stuck with the hard, cold reality of loneliness, grief and medical bills.
I hope I'm not making it sound very cynical, or simply a depressing meditation on tragedy and the futility of wish fulfillment. It's very funny.
Plus, come on: it's got some cool fights in it.
Cool wizard fights.
To shut his son up about all this "stupid geeky shit," Ramsey calls up the "Last Ditch Wish" Foundation to invite A.R. Crowling, the author of the Henry Shield books, over to let Kickin know how the final book ends. Upon first meeting her, Mrs. Crowling is one of those whimsical, Mary Poppins-type British ladies who believes magic is all around us.
You know, the kind you want to smother with a pillow (Ramsey sure does).
Mrs. Crowling actually promises Kickin something even better than discover the ending of her final book: help her write it. Before long, the whimsical - er, insane - author moves in with Kickin and Ramsey, as do the main characters of her books.
I've seen Silliman act a number of times (in Nosedive shows as well as others), and he plays notes I've never heard him play before as Ramsey. As a writer, he's not only right at home with this script, but stretching out beyond his comfort zone, which is one of the reasons why I think The Magic of Mrs. Crowling is so good. This was the play he was meant to write, and Ramsey is a character he was born to play.
Everyone else in the cast is great, including Nosedive Central member Patrick Shearer (who also did the sound design), who plays Dazzelin, a Dumbledore/Obi-Wan hybrid; Dennis Hurley as Valiaare, the good wizard-turned-evil-turned-good again; Paul Wyatt as Kickin; Shelly Smith as Mrs. Crowling; and Ronica Reddick as the evil wizard Charcane (I get giddy whenever she has the chance to do that maniacal laugh of hers).
Goldfarb's direction blends the play's frequent use of realism and fantasy perfectly.
The Magic of Mrs. Crowling is simultaneously a satire of fantasy books and stories and a defense of them. Often, fantasy and escapism aren't enough, but sometimes they're our only ports in the storm.
The Magic of Mrs. Crowling plays at the Kraine Theatre on 85 East 4th Street until August 4. For tickets go here. http://www.smarttix.com/show.aspx?showCode=MAG1
Wielding his lightsaber,
James "Dork Lightstalker" Comtois
Labels: of interest, theatre