Boot up your brain for stage winner

Cape Playhouse Opener Teases, Taunts, and Tickles Audience
Tangled web of mind games puzzles and pleases

By Libby Hughes, Cape Cod Today's Drama Critic

 

Launching the 82nd season at the beloved Cape Playhouse with a one-man show? Is that wild and risky? You bet. What were they thinking?

A brain teaser

 They were thinking that "Marc Salem's Mind Games" would keep your brain tuned to high energy for two hours without an intermission.  And they were right. On a rainy opening night, the Playhouse was almost full to an audience not knowing what to expect and slightly suspicious of someone who tinkers with the mind. And tinker he did.

Who is this guy?

msalem_378Who is this Marc Salem anyway? He is a highly educated professor of psychology, who is wise in the ways of human behavior (Dr. Phil Lite) and has translated his expertise into living theatre on Broadway, off Broadway, in London, and in South Africa. His knowledge has taken him into courtrooms to coach lawyers on how to study body language and eye movements to distinguish between truth-tellers and liars. Thirty years of practice have qualified him for his psychological drama and dry wit. Oh yes, he's an author as well.

Annual debut of Evans Haile

Before Mr. Salem made his entrance, Artistic Director Evans Haile arrived center stage from the wings to resounding applause. He is a charming favorite to his Cape fans and gave them a relaxed and confident overview of the upcoming season, mostly filled with musicals and a comedy. Their plan is to engage audiences onstage in some of their shows such as "Leader of the Pack," but more importantly, to entertain in the face of war, election fatigue, and soaring prices of gas and food.

Interaction with audience

And that's what Marc Salem does--he engages members of the audience onstage and off. Never at any time does he humiliate the unsuspecting participants. His humor brings them out of their shells. The waves of laughter come in staccato and largo waves, but they come and keep coming. Salem catches each wave as it crests and he moves to the next piece of business. At 9:20, some people were looking at their watches, wondering if there would be an intermission and how long Salem could sustain our attention. Except for that short lapse, he did sustain it. One longtime first nighter exclaimed on the way out, "Absolutely wonderful."

Stage set

The curtains are open as everyone finds his or her seat. On stage, set designer Kevin Orzechowski has placed a Queen Anne sideboard center, flanked by two Duncan Fife chairs with a tri-pod drum table to the side of one chair. An Oriental rug completes the simple and elegant set. In darkness, a self-effacing Marc Salem finds his way to just off-center. He is all in black and his humor commences to roll. Sometimes, he made a couple of wrong guesses and his stooges spoofed him with a piece of his own medicine. Somehow he was able to turn the tables back on them--all in good fun.

Go see for yourself

If this reviewer were to describe all the events in detail, it would spoil the surprises. Suffice it to say that numbers, words, sketches, espionage, and incredible psychic exercises, when he is taped and blindfolded at one point, are mind-blowing.

Sleight of mind

You will spend an evening in sleight of mind, rather than sleight of hand. It is magic of the mind and highly entertaining. Salem concludes by saying "a ten-year-old could do what he does with thirty years of practice." That line brought a standing ovation. If he had jet lag from South Africa, he didn't show it.

Get your brain in shape and take it to the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Cape Cod Center for the Arts June 23-July 5. Monday through Saturday at 8:00pm; Wednesday matinee at 2:00pm; Saturday 6/28 at 4:00pm; Thursday 7/3 at 2:00pm. Call 508-385-3911 for reservations or www.capeplayhouse.com.

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