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Text, Magic, Performance: The Mystery Solved

A sign your hypnotist is doing something wrong.

Remember those bizarre “PERFORMANCE” flyers that went up around campus in the first week? On Thursday, new Bwogger Chenoa Bunts-Anderson headed downtown to solve the mystery of “Text, Magic Performance”: a play written by a Columbia student and a recent alumnus for the Anthropology class of the same name. She gives her thoughts below.

Have you ever wondered what spending 90 minutes performing a three act show about performance might be like? Because, apparently, two Columbia students thought up exactly that. The interesting, bizarre, and surprisingly hilarious show Text, Magic, Performance explores the boundaries between deep contemplation and classic slapstick fun.

Text, Magic, Performance was written, directed by, and stars Nathaniel Jameson and Alex Saltiel, two Columbia students who apparently had trouble saying goodbye to class. Although originally written for Text, Magic, Performance (ANTH UN3947), an Anthropology class at Columbia, the play aims to present the relationship between states of mind and methods of presentation to a larger audience. As a Columbia University student, it proved to be an engaging project very relevant to topics explored in CU’s Core, while also being vaguely reminiscent of watching Black Mirror at 3 am.

While Text, Magic, Performance doesn’t necessarily provide any breakthroughs in thinking or deliver a long, heartfelt moral, it is an intriguing topic. Act 1 proved overly reliant on PowerPoint slides, and the actors’ motives were unclear. But Jameson and Saltiel were both clearly passionate and involved actors who were able to bring the quotes they read to life.

This Gentleman was very opinionated.

Much of the show was held up by the actors’ remarkable knack for humorous delivery and willingness to fall on the ground at any moment. The cast consisted of three characters, only two of whom were listed in the night’s billing. By providing scant information at the door and on posters, they created a surprising experience. Additional audience participation and a “silent” non-automated character in the form of a baby doll added those elements of pure weirdness often attributed to drama majors. The venue of The Tank, a small not-for-profit theater, aided in the creepy atmosphere of a room with a group of men wearing white, faceless masks.

Live accompaniment by “The Butler” featured music by Simon Broucke (CC ‘19), who also composed for the 124th Annual Varsity Show last Spring. Though music was present, the play largely relied upon a never-ending stream of dialogue. Text, Magic, Performance was clearly written from the limited perspective of two male college students, and relied too heavily on the mimicking of WikiHow steps displayed by projector. The shortcomings in the presentation of Act 1, the lack of depth for certain aspects discussed, and a generally inconclusive plot marked this as a classic student-written and performed piece. Nonetheless, the audience had a good time, laughing for almost all of the show’s 90 minutes. The show proved to be worth a short trip downtown and $5 admission price.

To enjoy philosophical concepts drawn out a little too much and incredibly engaging humor, go see Text, Magic, Performance’s last show tonight at 10:30 pm.

Images via Chenoa Bunts-Anderson

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