A merry Broadway run for performance-art magicians Penn and Teller
New York — Penn & Teller A show starring Penn Jillette and Teller. Directed by Art Wolff. The Rockettes are starring in the Music Hall's Christmas spectacular. The Rockefeller yule tree is up and glowing. And less than two blocks southwest, Penn Jillette and no-first-name Teller are making their Broadway debut at the Ritz Theatre. What could be merrier? As they did Off Broadway a couple of seasons ago, the thinking man's performance-art magicians again prove themselves, in their own words, ``a couple of crazy guys doing a couple of cool things.''
The guys are mostly up to their familiar tricks and gambits. Penn still recites ``Casey at the Bat'' while a suspended Teller squirms out of a straitjacket. There is a dizzying display of disappearing tinfoil balls under plastic cups. Teller swallows hard and performs the ``East Indian Needle Mystery.'' Penn eats fire. MOFO, the Psychic Gorilla, reads minds in a feat that somehow ends up involving a nearby Japanese restaurant. A spectacular new card trick immerses the mutely resigned Teller in a water-filled perpendicular tank. Penn's jive is just as brash and relevantly far-out as ever.
Revisiting ``Penn & Teller'' increases admiration for the artful structuring of the apparently spontaneous performance staged by Art Wolff. A trick planted at the show's outset pays off only moments before the finale.
``Penn & Teller'' has everything, including red-and-gold draperies by John Lee Beatty and lighting by Dennis Parichy. Marc Garland receives due credit as ``Director of Covert Activities,'' and the recorded musical score features ``ambient'' vocals by Yma Sumac.
The only limited feature of ``Penn & Teller'' is the Broadway engagement. Penn says it will last until sometime into January, when the company leaves to make its first movie, ``Penn and Teller Get Killed.''
``We won't let you down,'' says razor-sharp Penn Jillette.