REVIEW: North Coast Rep's "Now You See It" Dazzles Audiences

Magical Mayhem is the Best Kind of Mayhem

North Coast Rep

When a play begins with a voiceover announcer demanding that audience members “silence all anachronistic electronic devices,” you know it’s going to be a good show. That kind of an introduction shows a strong attention to detail, and its that level of commitment that really immerses the audience of Now You See It into the performance. From that very first introduction straight through to the final bows, The North Coast Repertory Theatre’s performance of Now You See It displays an astonishing attention to detail—but then again, I guess the devil is always in the details when your play uses acts of magic and hypnotism. 

Now You See It is a classic French farce written by Georges Feydeau and translated by British playwright Kenneth McLeish, who translated most of Feydeau’s works into English. The original version of Now You See It first debuted at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal in 1892. The North Coast Rep boasts the first United States premiere of Now You See It, directed by North Coast Rep veteran director Bruce Turk. The play follows the paranoid Marie-Louise (Allison Minick), who constantly suspects her brand new husband Summersby (Kern McFadden) of cheating thanks to her recently deceased spouse’s constant infidelity. 

Now You See It has an admittedly slow start. Marie-Louise and Summersby both seem a little shallow and unlikable at first, and the opening fifteen minutes are weighed down by heavy exposition. That being said, once Shaftesbury-Phipps (David McBean) arrives in town, the play takes a sudden, fast-paced turn. As Marie-Louise’s former friend, Shaftesbury-Phipps is hopelessly in love with her and devastated to learn that Marie-Louise has remarried someone so pompous like Summersby.

Now You See It at the North Coast Rep

David McBean is the real scene-stealer of this magical performance. From the moment he enters midway through Act 1, the play's pacing picks up and the action feels fresh and exciting. McBean’s character Shaftesbury-Phipps brings a delightful amount of neuroses and anxiety to the show, which is a welcome contrast to the almost insufferable character of Summersby (a character that actor Kern McFadden expertly makes you love to hate). Shaftesbury-Phipps is a wide-eyed naive little puppy—with an almost Dr Frank N. Furter-type accent—who ultimately brings the most levity and humor to Now You See It. 

The cast for Now You See It is quite small; the play consists of only 5 actors. Like McFadden and McBean, the other performers within the show, including Ruff Yeager (Vole) and John Greenleaf (Oriole), display great physical-comedic chops throughout the performance. And the lovely Allison Minick shines brightly during her subtle moments of silence, when her character's emotional changes are visible on her face.

To no one’s surprise, magic and hypnotism both play a large role in Now You See It’s convoluted plot, and the special effects and sleight of hand employed by the North Coast Rep is absolutely stunning. There is one special effect near the end of the first act that utterly stunned the crowd into oohing and ahhing throughout the intermission. The acts of magic performed in the show are only surpassed by the magic of the set. Scenic Designer Marty Burnett created a beautiful and detailed set that works well with not only the Victorian era time period, but that also add comedic moments to the show.

Overall, Now You See It is a fun romp through the farcical upperclass of 19th century England. It’s clear that the North Coast Rep thinks so too, because they have already extended Now You See It’s run until March 27th. Now, you have the chance to see it; make sure you go before it magically disappears at the end of the month!

To purchase tickets, please call (858) 481-1055 or visit North Coast Rep's website. North Coast Repertory Theatre is located at 987 Lomas Sante Fe Drive - Suite D, Solana Beach, CA 92075.