By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
For an awful moment, says Lucy Darling brightly, “I thought this was one of those terrible juice box events!”
No fear, my (socially distanced) friends. When you’re a guest at L.D.’s magic comedy show An Exceptional Night In With Lucy Darling (coming to the Citadel’s online theatre lineup Friday), the beverage of choice, not to mention the chief prop and improv cue, is the cocktail. Thanks to the ubiquitous magic of Zoom, gussied up for the occasion with the latest gallery features, you’ll find yourself at Lucy’s place, as I was, on Sunday afternoon. And along with your fellow party-goers and Lucy’s lovely assistants (Richard Lee Hsi and Miranda Allen), you’ll see cocktails of your choice magically appear from shakers, and arrive in the proper-shaped glasses. With garnish. You’ll even see them defy gravity, hang upside down, and freeze.
And the booze will be accompanied by a non-stop stream of funny, improvised chat from the retro-glam character in the golden age diva gown. Lucy Darling, the star with the ‘40s cadence, the kewpie charm, the shellacked bouffant hair, and the wicked glint, is one of the alter-egos of the Calgary-based magician Carisa Hendrix.
Henrix is also, incidentally, the Guinness record-holder for how long she can hold a lit torch in her mouth (witness the documentary Girl On Fire). Which would seem to have only a peripheral connection with her expertise in card tricks or cup-and-ball games. And none at all with Lucy’s uncanny ability, having asked an audience member for the name of their favourite book, to produce that very volume. Right then and there.
It’s a startling array of skills, to say the least, that Hendrix brings to the table (hers, as it happens in these COVIDian times). And one of them, you’ll discover, in a live Zoom “meeting” that brings 36 of us together, along with Lucy’s assistants, is an uncanny knack for making magic “real,” which is to say convincing, online.
As Lucy points out “there can be no magic without surprise.” And quite possibly there can be no magic without audience interaction. But being online makes the latter a very tricky achievement in spontaneity — hard work that needs to seem live, much less easeful — as we know now from a variety of theatrical experiments, on the spectrum from deadening to enlivening, that have happened on a variety of platforms in the last six months.
“Wit,” declares Lucy, “is my favourite of the seven accessible forms of intelligence.” She combines it with charm, a flirtatious relationship with the X-rated, and a redeeming whiff of eau de self-mockery. Plus the gift of the gab . And suddenly, there are volunteers, in the Zoom “gallery view,” for the “virtual front row.”
Lucy is a great retainer of individual names, with running gags attached to each. And the show has segments. There’s Mixology with Lucy Darling (respond to the poll, and take notes). Ask Lucy has this dexterous personnage improvise answers to questions submitted by the audience in advance. What are Lucy’s quarantine activities? someone wondered. Raising potatoes, she says instantly. Since potatoes make vodka. And so it goes.
Bonus: two impressive Edmonton theatre artists star in their own sequences: Actor/dancer Lee Hsi and actor/escapologist Allen. There’s an impressive array of entertainment talent on display at Lucy’s party. And, yes (to anticipate your party thought), there are contests and prizes. Damn. Shoulda worn my sequinned vest.
An Exceptional Evening In With Lucy Darling
Theatre: Ballyhoo Entertainment
Starring: Carissa Hendrix, Richard Lee Hsi, Miranda Allen
Where: online, live-streamed on Zoom
When: Friday and Saturday, and Oct. 16 and 17