November 24, 2003


All of the People, All the Time

reviewed by
Lynn Trenning















For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.

Charlotte Repertoryís world premiere of All of the People, All the Time, is proof that low tech trickery can be as astonishing as special effect wizardry when performed by masters of the trade. The play was born from a staged reading at The Repís new play festival last spring, and is directed by Michael Bush, who is leaving The Rep after two seasons as its Producing Artistic Director.

Did you ever have an uncle who made a quarter appear behind your ear? Thatís nothing compared to what sleight of hand performers Darwin Ortiz and David Roth can do with a deck of cards and a hand full of half dollars. The two magicians, unknown to most, but considered the best in their field by other magicians, wrote All of the People as a documentary with the help of Patrick Cook. This magic show masquerading as a play will dazzle magic aficionados and poker players alike. Abraham Lincoln claimed that you canít fool all of the people all of the time. Iím not so sure.

The show is performed in Spirit Squareís intimate Duke Theatre, and is told in chapters, the first of which is named, "How to Achieve Celebrity in New York as a Close Up Magician." The chapters track the magicians' discovery of magic, their digital alacrity, and the tenacity involved in perfecting their trade.

As the story unfolds, the magicians perform a constant litany of unbelievable tricks. This is magic of the most intimate variety, and requires absolute concentration on the part of the audience. Roth works with four silver half dollars. With the precision of a surgeon and the timing of a trapeze artist he rolls coins between his fingers, makes them appear and disappear, transfers them from the top of his hand to metal container, and from one side of the table to the other. I have no idea how he does it. As far as Iím concerned, he has mystical powers.

Ortiz performs card effects, not to be confused with card "tricks," which he clearly believes is an insulting term. I can personally attest that Ortiz is a genius, because I was called upon to take stage and be his mark. He turned piles of red cards into black ones and back into red ones and back into black ones over and over. I wrote my name on one card, and he turned it into four cards. I held my hand so tightly atop a pile of ten cards that I was frightened when I removed it and there were eleven.

While both magicians are incredible performers, they are not incredible actors. Both men have low-key stage personas that could benefit from enthusiasm. They are ably assisted by actors Randell Haynes and Lane Morris, who play a dizzying number of roles ranging from magicians to mothers, and are both funny and effective at creating a story around the magic.

The play is injected with an endearing dose of self-deprecation that acknowledges the lack of respect most artists receive. Like writers whose books are never published, and singers who never record a note, Ortiz and Roth are ultimately undaunted by their obscurity, are grateful to be able to make a living off the crafts that to my eye, they perform with abject perfection.

Lynn Trenning, November 24, 2003

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