“Grandma, watch this!” I shout, entering the room. Grandma Betty is
compacting the trash again (a magic trick of her own) by cutting
everything into small square pieces. She did this every week, enough to
earn the nickname, “Confetti Betty.”
I clear my throat in
preparation. “Watch as I turn this ordinary Dixon Ticonderoga pencil
into… RUBBER!” In an up-and-down motion, I shake the pencil, parallel to
the ground, with a loose grip between my thumb and index finger. I
stand tall, assuming my grandma thinks me powerful enough to transform
wood into rubber.
Yet, my grandma’s “oohs and aahs” were not
because she thought I performed actual magic, she cheers because she
likes the show (and the performer). In my youth, I had a “minor
obsession” with magic, creating an illusion for a captive audience. I
think it’s why I was so drawn to theatre in the first place because it’s
also an act, a purposeful “trick” with intent to entertain. An audience
knows the magic is not real, but they choose to suspend disbelief
(hopefully). For example, an audience is not expected to actually
believe that a woman is cut in half or transforms into a gorilla in
order to enjoy the performance.
Magic and misdirection are a common motif in many Woody Allen comedy
classics. Father Drobney, the narrator of Don’t Drink the Water
(premiering March 13th at VWCT), has been taking refuge in a United
State’s embassy for over six years to evade capture by Communist police.
He’s a Catholic priest and an amateur magician (played by Perry S.
Luhn) who resides within a country “where out of four million
inhabitants, 3,975,000 are atheists, and about 24,000 are agnostics -
and the other thousand are Jewish.” He has a lot of work on his hands,
unless he “can attempt the biggest mass conversion in history,” a magic
trick of epic proportions.
Actually, the plot of Don’t Drink the
Water plays out like one big magic trick, specifically “the escape
trick.” But, instead of an escape from a block-of-ice, handcuffs, a
straightjacket, or a trunk, the Hollander family (American tourists
played by Steve Lane, Amber Evans, and Jenna Brunk) has to escape from
an Embassy of the United States without being killed by the Communist
police who think their American spies. Think of it like that one trick
where the magician is handcuffed, shackled, and placed into a tank of
water. If he doesn’t escape from his restraints in three minutes or
less, a bucket of flesh eating piranhas are tossed into the tank. The
parallels between theatre and magic are obvious. It’s a lie, a
deception, but… an honest one. As an audience member of Don’t Drink the
Water, you will not be asked to believe we’ve transported you to a small
eastern European country somewhere behind the Iron Curtain
(furthermore, it takes place in the 1960’s). What you will be asked to
do is not “disbelieve” we’ve kidnapped you and stuck you in a time
In order to do this, director Chris Butturff has
assembled a top-notch cast and crew sure to hold your attention long
enough to distract you from the fact that you are not inside the walls
of an Embassy of the United States (the setting of Don’t Drink the
Water), but sitting in the auditorium of a small community theatre,
nestled in the heart of Van Wert, Ohio.
It’s what good magic and
good theatre do best; suspend your disbelief through the art of
distraction. It’s the only way to enjoy theatre and magic, and it’s the
only way the Hollanders are going to make it out of the U.S. Embassy
without being killed by the Communist police.
So, join us at VWCT
for our production of Don’t Drink the Water on March 13, 14, 15, 16, 20,
21, 22, or 23 to see the magic of theatre and the art of distraction.
Call the VWCT box-office at (419) 238-9689 Monday through Saturday
between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to make your reservations. For more
information, visit http://vwct.org.