The Mystery of Chung Ling Soo NY/Edinburgh

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Postby BrendanK » 06/24/05 01:47 PM

Edinburgh Fringe August 2005

The Mystery of Chung Ling Soo
Dynamic New York Fringe First winners conjure explosive physicality and dazzling illusions in this true-life murder-mystery thriller. When the star of London Vaudeville magic is shot dead performing his own signature trick - whodunit? www.78thstreettheatrelab.org
venue: C
group: 78th Street Theatre Lab & Flying Carpet Theatre Company
category: Theatre
related link: www.flyingcarpettheatre.com
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Postby Ian Kendall » 06/24/05 03:22 PM

That should be fun - C is a great venue.

The Fringe seems to be a wee bit thin on magic this year; a quick skim of the programme showed only Jerry and myself. This is a double edged sword - some may say that with fewer magic shows there will be more people for me, however, my experience is that when people seek out magic they tend to go for _all_ the shows. It just means that this year there is less choice.

Oh well.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Jim Snapp » 06/25/05 09:02 AM

Hi;
If you are like me, you became engrossed in reading about Chung Ling Soo. Steinmeyer's writing transported me back to another time and place and then suddenly I was jerked back to the present by the advertizement in the center pages of the article. This is easily avoided by doing what I did, using a glue stick around the three outside edges of that page, closing the magazine and firmly pressing down.

Jim
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 06/25/05 10:21 AM

Jim, advertising is a necessary part of any magazine's financial well-being. Theater Effects pays a premium price for that location, and helps Genii stay in business by doing so.
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Postby Pete Biro » 06/25/05 01:08 PM

Gluing ad pages together? Argh... boy I'd had to see what your copies of Better Homes and Gardens looks like! :D :eek: :D
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Postby Pete Biro » 06/25/05 01:09 PM

Wait, you could trim those pages, and your magazine would be like a Svengali Deck, or a coloring book. :p :p :p
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Postby Joe M. Turner » 06/25/05 08:28 PM

Flying Carpet Theatre is producing this play in Atlanta. It opens next month, runs for a couple of weeks, then goes off to Edinburgh.

Some of you may know that I have a pretty strong theatrical background. I recently met with the director and playwright and consulted on some of the magic that will be in the production. I also attended a rehearsal (first of several planned) and worked with a couple of the actors who need to perform a magic effect here and there during the play. I understand the director spoke with Jim Steinmeyer along the way as well. I brought my copy Genii featuring the excerpt from Mr. Steinmeyer's book to discuss with the company.

The show runs only about 75-80 minutes. I have been offered an opportunity to perform a short parlor set as part of the run on some selected nights here in Atlanta; we are trying to work out a schedule as the run conflicts with a trip my wife and I have planned... perhaps we can work in 1 or 2 performances between opening night and our departure for Hawaii.

It's very cool that we're going to get to see it here in Atlanta.

JMT
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Postby Jim Snapp » 06/27/05 08:22 AM

Hi;
Richard/Pete;
I wasn't complaining about the ad or advertizing in general, and I do realize that advertizing is important to the continuation of Genii. As I said, it was the sudden jolt you get when reading the Chung Ling Soo story and then turning the page to find the ad that is so different from the mood set by the story.
I really enjoy what you've done with Genii, especially bringing back the Magicana section.

Jim
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Postby Ian Kendall » 08/08/05 04:17 AM

This morning's Metro newspaper gave the show a five star review this morning. Metro is a free newspaper that is widely read in the city. To get a good review this early in the Fringe (it only officially started last night) is excellent for the show, and will almost certainly give good houses for the rest of the run.

...which means I probably won't be able to get a ticket. Arse.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Joe M. Turner » 08/13/05 10:22 AM

Is there an online version of that review that could be shared?

JMT
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Postby BrendanK » 08/13/05 04:59 PM

http://www.edinburgh-festivals.com/revi ... 1743162005

Not The Metro (a freesheet), but from The Scotsman (a real newspaper)
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Postby Joe M. Turner » 08/13/05 06:25 PM

Thanks. I had actually found that one -- was curious about other reviews (if any).

Thanks again!

JMT
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Postby Ian Kendall » 08/24/05 01:57 PM

I met director Adam a couple of days ago - the show has got several five star reviews (which are harder to come by these days) and seems to be one of the hits of the Fringe. Hopefully I'll get to it on Monday...

On the plus side, I got my show desk of cards today - they had the details printed onto the backs of cards and I was given a full deck :)

Take care, Ian
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Postby Joe M. Turner » 08/25/05 10:14 AM

Adam Koplan is a great guy; treated the magic with a lot of respect. The whole cast was a treat to work with.

Wish I could see the show again!

JMT
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Postby Ian Kendall » 08/29/05 02:14 PM

Update - a magician's viewpoint.

I got to see the final performance of The Mystery of Chung Ling Soo this afternoon. The show has gained a significant bundle of excellent reviews this year, and I was keen to make it along. I think having some background knowledge (and make time to read through the first couple of pages of the Genii article before I left the house) helped in the enjoyment, but I'm certain that the play would be as fascinating to a layman as it was to a jaded hack like me.

The stage opens to William Robinson introducing the concept to the audience, that we were not here to see mere 'tricks', but to witness the 'truths' of the Chinese Conjourer. During this address Rob flourishes with an Electric Deck (possibly to signify the difference between the card 'tricks' he did and the magical 'truths' which Soo performed), and this segment contains the first 'real' magical happening when Rob dissappears from the stage in a quite visual (or not, come to think about it) manner. If this was one of Joe's ideas the actors got the timing exactly right.

From here we see Rob and Soo checking the rifles in the dressing room, and at this point it is assumed that they are indeed separate people. Soo goes onstage to enact the Bullet Catching Trick, and is shot by the third rifle (pedant warning - the Steinmeyer article mentions only two rifles were used...) Soo is shot and lies on the large chest that sits in the centre of the stage. A voice over (from the live pianist and percussionist, who did a fantastic job) tells us that the world famous magician has been fatally shot. Robinson is interviewed by the police about his relationship with Soo, and at this point things begin to hint at the double life he led.

When asked how he met Soo we are shown the most amusing part of the play, where Robinson (as he was, performing card tricks on stage) tries to impress a booking agent from the Folies Bergere in Paris by putting an illusion into the show at the last minute. That this illusion seems to have falled off the back of a lorry and fails to work results in Robinson being jeered off stage and he and his wife Dotty wondering what is going to happen next.

While Dotty is getting changed Rob starts to think and Soo floats up from within the trunk. He changes a fan of cards into an oriental fan and generally plants the seed.

From here we skip to Soo's runs in London, his challenge from Ching Ling Foo and subsequent rise to fame and fortune. Several of his illusions are described and played out in mime, notably the Fishing for Gold (and the resultant explanation to the Kaiser) and the Divorce Engine. However, the cracks begin to show as Dotty threatens to go out of the theatre out of character, and Rob's increasing frustration at being a 'nobody'.

Soo never speaks in the production - save for one word which is both a jolt and completely understandable in context - and all his dialogue is spoken by Rob as the two circle a room and the expressions on Soo's face match perfectly the mood. This dual performance can seem a wee bit strange, but anyone who has endured the Caucasian Chalk Circle might recognise the baby character in the style (and yes, I do realise that that is quite possibly the most pretentious aside in this forum's history).

As the play moves on we see the autopsy of Soo, and his public unmasking as Robinson. The newspaper hacks have a field day with headline puns and we are told that Rob had intended to debut a new act that night (but the secret of the act died with him). In the final scene Soo climbs on top of the trunk and transforms into Robinson in a Sub trunk move that would put many magicians I have seen to shame. That these are actors, and not magicians, is testament to the work they put into the show.

All in all it was an excellent production. My understanding is that it is moving to New York next, and I would urge anyone living East of, say, Chicago and North of, ooh, Jacksonville, to make the effort to see it. You won't be dissappointed.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Joe M. Turner » 11/01/05 03:06 PM

http://atlanta.creativeloafingbestof.co ... d%3A169104

Best of Atlanta 2005
Critic Picks
Best Out of Town Play: The Mystery of Chung Ling Soo

By booking midsized touring shows, 14th Street Playhouse has tapped into a huge Atlanta audience and attracted such appealing one-man plays as Leslie Jordans Like a Dog on Linoleum and Charles Ross One-Man Star Wars Trilogy. Nevertheless, the most ingenious, robustly theatrical event from out of town turned out to be THE MYSTERY OF CHUNG LING SOO at the 7 Stages Back Stage Theatre. New Yorks Flying Carpet Theatre paid homage to Houdini-era illusionists and the golden age of magic in an intimate, inventive show that left audiences mesmerized.
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