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‘Dead’ comes to life off-Broadway

“In the 1930s through the 1970s, there was a phenomenon called ‘Spook Shows,’” seances staged to contact the dead, explains Teller, the usually silent half of the duo Penn and Teller.

“In the 1930s through the 1970s, there was a phenomenon called ‘Spook Shows,’” seances staged to contact the dead, explains Teller, the usually silent half of the duo Penn and Teller. The magician/comedian is behind “Play Dead,” a new production with origins based in Spook Shows. Teller collaborated with actor Todd Robbins on the play, describing his star as a “ghostly figure himself.” We contacted Teller (via phone, not medium) for secrets about this haunting show.

On the show’s chilling effects:
“The stage is bare, but it’s filled with file boxes of cold cases containing the stories of dead people. [Star Todd Robbins] tells the audience true stories about dead people, but these true stories in the course of the evening turn out to have physical manifestations — that is, you end up feeling that the theater is haunted by the ghosts of these people he’s talking about.”

On appealing to New Yorkers:
“We’re trying to recreate the idea of a Spook Show, where you spend time in the dark with a strange guy doing amazing things. But we’re trying to present ideas that we think will be interesting to a sophisticated New York theatergoer audience.”

On The Players Theater:

“This show belongs in the Player’s Theater in Greenwich Village. The Players Theater has been many things in its day. The historical role echoes and feels very ghostly when you walk into the place. Honestly, when I first walked in to the place I thought, ‘We hardly need to do a show here. This place already gives me the chills.’”

 

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