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Play DC: The Elephant Room @ Arena Stage
January 30, 2012 | 10:00AM

Short Review

This show is amazing and hilarious, it’s best to just trust me and blindly dive into it. Here are the croosh deets:

Elephant Room
by Steve Cuiffo, Trey Lyford and Geoff Sobelle / directed by Paul Lazar
JAN 20 – FEB 26, 2012
in the Kogod Cradle @ Arena Stage
1101 Sixth Street, SW
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Slightly Longer Review

Going into the Elephant Room at Arena Stage for their final dress rehearsal the other night, I was expecting something “weird” but not really weird.  Something along the lines of a musical about Brooklyn hipsters, or a troupe that performs 30 mini plays in 60 minutes.  Advertised as some sort of magical comedy theater hybrid with a goofy looking trio mugging for the camera it had high potential to be something I could pretentiously dismiss, while still being happy the art appreciation zeitgeist had improved for the better overall in the internet leveled playing field of taste we live in.  This would be no Reggie Watts, but simply mildly amusing.  And then I was presented with one of the greatest chunks of live entertainment I’ve ever seen.

You get to spend an hour and change on a figuratively and literally magical psychedelic journey through the psyches of the three characters. It’s a stream of consciousness one act with Axel F dance numbers, a little Curb Your Enthusiasm and Mr. Show, a lot of Tim & Eric, actual honest to god impressive illusions, not so impressive ones, an expertly placed Ray Lynch track, a phone call from the Dali Lama, non-awkward audience participation, craptastic special effects, and non stop manic retarded hilarity.

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There is no plot, it’s just this giant meta explosion of strangeness. I overheard someone say “I think I got high just watching that” as they left the theater. But it’s never odd just to be odd, everything has weight to it. There is a strange undercurrent of sadness and despair that runs throughout as well. It sort feels like a Christopher Guest project. You start to feel that the three characters have complex backgrounds only hinted at here; Dennis Diamond, a slick Vegas conjurer with a healthy serving of zen, Daryl Hannah, the recovering alcoholic trailer trash wizard, and Louie Magic, the kids birthday party magician / hair metal fan. It’s as if you’re just catching the middle hour of a 12 part BBC mini series when they still had that off-putting soft focus. Or at least think you are whilst in mid-trip when you’re really just looking at the couch.

I want to give as little away as possible, and I’ve already said too much, but there is a bit where all three magicians are performing their own magic trick at the same time, it’s like the ultimate misdirect, yet none are vying for your attention. They’re just casually making balloons animals or sawing a woman in half while addressing the audience as if nothing else if going on around them. It’s so diametrically opposed to what you’re used to that your brain starts to short circuit, the effect is both brilliant and ridiculously funny.

Yet the surprising thing is how accessible the performance is. If I took my mom to it, it probably wouldn’t be her favorite thing ever, but she’d still really like it. It’s a dream come true for annoying hipster snobs like myself, but The Elephant Room has universal appeal to anyone even remotely entertained by this sort of thing. The price is a bit steep, but it’s worth every penny and then some, so don’t sleep on it.
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