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A CurtainUp Review
Derren Brown: Secret

UPDATE:A The show is reprising its 2017 world premiere at the Atlantic Theater with a run on Broadway. It will be at the Cort Theater 138 West 48th Street 212.239.6200 from 9/10/19, have its official opening 9/15/19 and run through 1/04/20.
We are all trapped inside our own heads — and our sense of what's true and real is entirely dictated by the limitations of that perspective.—Derren Brown
derren brown
Derren Brown
British mentalist and illusionist Derren Brown begins Derren Brown: Secret by telling the audience that we all have stories we tell ourselves. "Sometimes," he says "we feel the need to keep these stories undisclosed. He then reveals the personal secret he kept until he came out when he was thirty-one. That's when he found out nobody really cared.

Very soon afterwards, Brown asks people in the audience to keep secret whatever happens in the show, even if some of those people happen to be reviewers. This, of course, places considerable limitations on even the most intrepid reviewer. But here we go. . .

The hidden thoughts revealed in Brown's show are a good deal less profound than sexual identity. As in most mentalist shows, the real interest here is not our secrets but the mentalists'. We all want to know how in the world we can be fooled again and again and again.

Written by Brown, Andy Nyman and Andrew O'Connor, and directed by Nyman and O'Connor the show marks Brown's debut at Atlantic Theater Company. He makes brilliant use of a bag of tricks similar to what most such performers employ. He can figure out facts about total strangers, like their name or their astrological sign. He can (sometimes) predict how they are going to respond to a question or a request. He knows what's on their minds.

What's more, Brown can influence people to follow his suggestions. He's not only a mentalist but also a master hypnotist. And most impressive of all, he can predict the future.

Only the most naive in the audience would believe Brown has some special mind-reading powers. Even he admits he does not. And if he did, one suspects he would surely put that ability to more lucrative use than show business. But we most certainly would like to believe in the impossible, and Brown does everything he can to foster that hope.

If mentalist shows are one-half trickery, the other half is showmanship. And Brown is definitely a master showman. He's congenial and funny. He's ironic but not judgmental.

At times Brown makes his feats seem easy; at other times he makes them look enormously difficult. He tells people in the audience to stop jiggling their feet so he can concentrate. He makes a few false guesses until he hits on the right answer.

What makes mentalists' shows so interesting is their unique combination of surprise and predictability. Often we know exactly what's going to happen. But sometimes we are totally blown away. And there is nothing more delightful than being converted into believers despite our better judgment.

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Derren Brown: Secret
Written by Andy Nyman, Derren Brown and Andrew O'Connor
Directed by Andrew O'Connor and Andy Nyman
Run Time: approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, including an intermission
Linda Gross Theater, 336 West 20th Street,
From 4/21/2017; opening 5/16/2017; closing 6/04/2017
Show Times: Tuesday @7pm, Wednesday-Saturday @8pm, Saturday and Sunday @2pm (Sunday 4/30 @7pm)
Tickets: $65
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons at May 13, 2017 press preview

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