Vol. 16, No. 17 – May 17 – May 30, 2023 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Ojai Stages Original Work

Ojai writer, director and artist Peter Fox offers up his play “Disappearing Act” now on stage at the Ojai Arts Center Theater.

Fox’s work features a young man who ostensibly makes his living as a magician. With this background in mind, the body of the work centers around a man struggling with old familial resentments, a curious and surprisingly naive scholar and an older man who magically appears bringing a few skeletons from his own closet.

Woven into this are some bits of magic as well as references to magic history and personalities in the world of magic, many with which the general public is unlikely to be familiar. Fox’s fascination with “inspired magic” is evident. However, from my point of view, it was not fully realized, but did provide a new scenario twist in which to explore disappointment, disillusion and long-buried anger.

The acting by all three is by-and-large adequately done, particularly Buddy Wilds as Frank. He fairly carried the second act which had more depth. However, the three characters did not seem to have developed chemistry between them.

Max Budroe as Donny, the young man, failed to convince me that his skills were honed enough to make a living as a magician, either in presentation or performance. Budroe seemed unsure and tentative opening night handling the cards and basic tricks. His rather shaggy look never said “professional” to me as a performer. There seemed no difference between the man who lounged on the couch or the man who was performing “at a gig.” He delivered the written material well enough although the actual magic performed seemed quite entry-level. Perhaps his confidence will build as the run goes on.

Emily Vallance gives a strong presence to Molly, a student drafting a thesis on the psychology of magicians. There is a wealth of writing on this subject that seemed given little depth. It was unclear to me what information she was seeking and how it related to the action.

Buddy Wilds’ character was crusty and interesting. The dialogue pace picked up considerably after Wilds entered the action.

Some technical aspects seemed to still be in rehearsal phase. Long pauses when lights either did or did not come up in a timely fashion and uncertain sound cues caused pacing to be somewhat choppy. The audience did react favorably throughout, and pacing should smooth out over the run.

Magic Consultant James Lantiegne, owner of The House of Magic in Santa Paula, no doubt lent several props, set decor and instruction but the director and actors must put the polish on, which I found lacking. I was eager for more performance shine to convince me of Donny’s acumen as intimated by the script. Sadly, I was disillusioned.

Disappearing Act continues through May 28. Note Friday and Saturday curtain times are 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinees 2 p.m. ojaiact.org or 805-640-8797 Not suitable for children.

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