Review: ‘The Magnus Effect’ at The Greenfield Collective in Philadelphia

Take five folks with aviophobia, fear of flying, then multiply that by the individual’s various phobias and anxieties connected to flying, combine that with timely comedy plus intense drama, an excellent cast complemented by clever tech, compounded with perfectly interspersed dance and movement, and you have an exponentially superb show with a wonderfully constructed panoramic view into the turbulence of high anxiety!

Written by Hannah Van Sciver, directed by David O’Connor, and produced by the Greenfield Collective The Magnus Effect lifts these well drawn characters and their issues onto the stage in a heartening manner, taking the audience for an engaging ride within the world of extreme unease about flying. Many have some level of anxiety over flying, but reasons for it vary as is learned throughout the play.

Bottom Left to Right: Randal (Richard Chan), Hedda (Zoe Richards), and Amy (Amanda Jill Robinson). Top Left to Right: Drake (David Pica) and Sasha (Hannah Van Sciver). Photo by Dave Sarrafian.
Bottom Left to Right: Randal (Richard Chan), Hedda (Zoe Richards), and Amy (Amanda Jill Robinson). Top Left to Right: Drake (David Pica) and Sasha (Hannah Van Sciver). Photo by Dave Sarrafian.

Organized and led by Hedda (Zoe Richards) as part of a paid study, Randal (Richard Chan) who has germophobia, among other fascinating phobias, Amy (Amanda Jill Robinson), who has elevated obsessive-compulsive disorder, Sasha (Hannah Van Sciver), who is petrified to fly and must fly to Hawaii, and Drake (David Pica) who joins them for monetary reasons, but has anger issues, meet on a regular basis to discuss and work out their aversion to air flight. A myriad of mishaps ensue, yet these strangers’ trajectories draw closer to each other, and further from their fears.

There are a few terrifically tense moments, one involving Randal and a guitar that is strung out just so, that its release seems to echo throughout the theater space. Well played, cast! Each character is developed with depth and displays great range in his or her growth during the show. Combined, they formed an exemplary ensemble in terms of action and reaction within the story, which contains superbly staged surprises.

The intimate third floor theater space at Vox Populi is used to great effect by thinking outside the box; incorporating inventive set design by Sara Outing, utilizing space outside the stage area, and the inclusion of props which absolutely augment the show. Ingenuity shines forth from the innovative lighting by Noah Lee and sound design by Sarah Van Sciver designed to enhance the experience, along with Richard Chan’s well-placed dulcet tunes.

The in-flight chimes spice things up, and the light path towards the end of the show is just brilliant. Choreography (Joseph Ahmed) positively imbues the production with additional energy, vibrancy and sensation. Scene changes are fun to watch. The Tech and timing are terrific.

Mal Cherifi’s pre-show stand-up comedy on opening night garnered lots of laughter, warming the audience up for the main production, and after the show, the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services (DBHIDS) makes literature pertaining to mental health available. Drinks, via donation, are also available and help with the heat.

Don’t be afraid. The Magnus Effect is a dynamic, sometimes frenetic, action-packed 60 minute show that soars to success.

Running Time: About one hour, with no intermission.

The Magnus Effect plays through July 24th, 2016 at The Greenfield Collective performing at Vox Populi –  319 North 11th Street, on the 3rd floor, in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, purchase them at the door, or online.

An Interview with Hannah Van Sciver on ‘Doing Whatever’s Scary! by Deb Miller.


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