If you’re up for a little brain-f**kery this holiday season, look no further than the World Premiere of mentalist Vinny DePonto’s latest one-man trip, “Mindplay.”
Written with Josh Koenigsberg (“Charlatan”), DePonto’s 80-minute show is all about memory: where we store it, how we access it, and what might be hidden there. In between, all of that pontification are masterful mind illusions that will astound.
It’s hard to say much about DePonto’s show because no reviewer wants to reveal any of the fascinations you will experience during the show. In general, to touch on the various themes DePonto presents, he pulls people from the audience, diving deep into their heads and revealing what’s there inside. The results make you awestruck, confused, and overwhelmed by how the trickery was produced. You find yourself continuously asking, “how???”
DePonto opens the play by getting some of the most obvious questions and assumptions out of the way. First, he has a wire running up his neck to the top of his head that he pats to let you know it’s a microphone and not some secret contraption to get messages from someone backstage. Secondly, he admits everything he does is an actual trick and an illusion, so “please don’t ask me what number you’re thinking of after the show.”
Even knowing the entire night has been carefully crafted to make our mouths drop, they do anyway. And that’s the fun of it.
DePonto is an engaging presence: funny, self-deprecating, clever, and relatable. He clearly knows his craft, and he instantly pulls the audience into his unique brand of “magic.”
The scenic design is interesting because there is a simple curtain backdrop with occasional projections for a good portion of the show. Later on, however, there is a reveal that broadens the scope of the stage and offers another layer to DePonto and Koenigsberg’s theories about the mind and the drawers we need to open to expand it. Or retrieve what’s already there.
Geffen Playhouse’s tradition of offering smaller shows by illusionists and magicians is always a welcome treat. So, prepare to be dumbfounded in the best of ways as DePonto plays with your mind and leaves you questioning what other tricks your mind can play.