Monday, September 25, 2017

REVIEW: The Last Séance by Jennifer Berman

Dorothy Dietrich, Dick Brookz and Jane Mallison of Houdini Museum in Scranton attended the opening performance of Jennifer Berman's new play The Last Séance at the Hudson Guild Theater in New York on Monday. The play will run for two more performances on September 29 and October 1st. As you'll read in their guest review below, this is one not to be missed!

Justin Chevalier as Houdini. Photo by David Goodman.
If you are within range of New York City, run don’t walk to see Jennifer Berman’s new play The Last Séance at The Hudson Guild Theater as part of their New York Theater Festival. It is set against the backdrop of the early twentieth century. Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle confront each other over the emerging, widespread and growing phenomenon of Spiritualism. While devoted follower Doyle embraces the ability to contact and talk to the dead, Houdini is an anti-Spiritualist crusader. 
Almost everything about this production goes beyond expectation. At the very top of the list is the lead Justin Chevalier, who plays Houdini, and is as good as it gets. Good looking and reminiscent of Houdini, short of statue, but tall in presence he exudes the kind of confidence one would imagine of the legendary superstar. 
There are four other actors in the presentation, Jim Haines, who plays Doyle, has a large build that is physically larger than Houdini, but clearly not of the intellect of Houdini, though the part is written in a positive and intelligent manner, not cartoon like which would be the easy way to go. 
The other three actors play multiple parts in the show. Isabel Schnall plays Lady Doyle and Margery (in a blond wig). As Lady Doyle, she sometimes is a little laid back and not always up front enough, but still very good and winsome. She totally changes as Margery being very sexy, brash and up front. Megan Ghorashy plays Bessie Houdini and spiritualist Eusapia Palladinio. Two widely different characters that she plays well, once you can in your mind make the transition. 
Last but not least is Michael Fidalgo who plays 5 or 6 characters that by the end blend into one. Doyle’s son, Sir Oliver Cabot Lodge, Pheneas, Hereward Carrington, and and Margery’s husband, the enigmatic Dr. Crandon. 
This show richly deserves a much wider showing, which in our minds could even extend to Broadway. 
-Dick Brookz, Dorothy Dietrich, and Jane Mallison. 

CLICK HERE for tickets to The Last Séance. For more information visit the website for The New York Theater Festival.



  1. Forgot to mention, the choice of music is great including several repeats of "Rosabelle" and other songs of the era.

  2. I think you forgot to mention the Director!

  3. Last Seance director is amazing! The review was written in haste right after seeing the show. I wanted to get it n quickly since there are only three performances and wanted to inform people of how great the show is. No doubt but the director has a lot to do with the outcome of any show, and this one is no exception. Here is a quote from the writer Jennifer Berman that will tell you of the directors role.
    " This is w wonderful production of a wonderful play. Playwright Jennifer Berman and director Andrew Glant-Linden led a terrific cast in weaving this special story. Go see it. You'll be glad you did!
    Andrew Glant-Linden and I went to theatre school together at Hofstra University way back, oh, let’s just say sometime in the last century. That was also the first time we worked together on a production; the musical Gypsy. Andrew directed and I designed the costumes. So it is a real joy to work with him again after all these years. His calm and steady hand in guiding the performers and production elements is nothing less than expert, and I am amazed at how he has taken my words from the page and transformed them into a three dimensional living and breathing entity. His direction has added layers to my script that has fleshed out the story and given the characters a world of their own. He is this writer’s dream and truly inspiring to the entire cast! By the way, there are three performances and tickets are moving fast! There is still availability, so there is still time to get your seats! HERE'S THE LINK FOR TICKETS:
    Talk about a split personality! Meet Megan Ghorashy, our Bessie/Celia/Eusapia. It has been so amazing to see her go back and forth between these characters with such ease, as well as age from 20 - 80 years old. She amazes me every day! And interestingly, she plays both Houdini's wife and his mother... Gee, I hope Justin doesn't wind up with an Oedipus complex!
    Isabel Schnall is cast in three very different roles. What amazes me about her is her versatility to change character so distinctly and her ability to switch accents so perfectly. It is an amazement and a joy to watch. She is a beautiful foil for Justin’s and Jim’s Houdini and Doyle! :-)
    Meet Jim Haines, who is our Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He walloped us with his powerful voice and presence in the audition, and throughout rehearsals he is completely transforming himself into the articulate Victorian English gentleman that so defines who Doyle was in real life. I can almost see him walking into the wings and churning out yet another gripping Sherlock Holmes story!
    Meet our Houdini, Justin Chevalier! I was so impressed with his audition and knew right away that he was perfect for the role. And, after only a few rehearsals, he is bringing such a driving energy to the scenes, almost as if he is channeling Houdini himself. It’s really kind of spooky!
    The cast came together for our first rehearsal, it's so exciting to see these people begin to come alive!"

  4. Nearly 25 years (1999), I wrote and produced the live theater show, “The Great Houdini”, which had a successful 5-week run at the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood, CA. With the advent of the Internet, Cloud and Facebook, I finally uploaded the show from VHS to FB for those interested to watch. The quality is a bit dark/grainy, but it’s still enjoyable for all to watch; especially today on the anniversary of Houdini’s passing. The show starred Jim Bentley and Whit Haydn, both magicians from the Magic Castle. Sit back, relax, and enjoy “The Great Houdini”.

    1. I saw your show at the Stella Adler. It was great!