.‘Open’ Closes Main Stage West’s Run

The word “abracadabra,” usually a bit of nonsense uttered by a magician prior to an illusion, actually means “I will create as I speak.” It may sound like silliness, but what if there’s something deeper behind the slight-of-hand and trickery and prestidigitation? What if behind the illusions and broken mirrors there is still some real magic to be found? What if one could believe in something so hard that it comes into existence? What if that belief could change the world?

These questions set the stage for Crystal Stillman’s one-act, Open. It’s running at Sebastopol’s Main Stage West through Feb.26.

A love story at its core, the plot hinges on The Magician (Taylor Diffenderfer) summoning an audience into existence. The enigmatic magician explains that the audience is an important part of real magic. They’re needed to hold up the suspension of disbelief while the magician focuses on the act of creation. This optimistic magical realism abruptly comes into contact with a modern New York City just after the Trump election, resulting in a sometimes cliched, often predictable plot that nevertheless still retains the ability to enchant. That it’s able to do that is chiefly because of the tour de force performance of Diffenderfer.

music in the park san jose
music in the park san jose

First-time director Lauren Heney allows Diffenderfer to display all the quirkiness and gravitas for which she’s known but also allows Diffenderfer to reveal an earnestness and grounded vulnerability that makes this show one not to be missed. From the moment she opens her eyes and manifests the audience through the joy she feels in finding a soul mate to the anger of never being allowed to openly be herself, Diffenderfer’s Magician is pitch perfect.

That being said, the audience is as important to the plot as the actor, which is why it was so frustrating to have to deal with audience members talking, rustling their programs or leaving early. The play runs only one hour and 15 minutes with no intermission. Is it really that hard in the era of three-hour movies to maintain decorum for 75 minutes?

And bring a mask. Magic can’t protect one from COVID.

There are only a few weeks left to support Main Stage West, as they’ve announced their closure following the completion of this show’s run. After a 12-year run, 70 never-less-than-interesting productions and 1,000 performances, no amount of magic could help the company navigate the difficulties brought on by years of natural disasters, the pandemic and employment classification issues.

‘Open’ runs through Feb. 26 at Main Stage West, 104 N. Main St., Sebastopol. Thu-Sat at 8pm; Sun, 5pm. $20-$32. Masking required. 707.823.0177. mainstagewest.com.

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