David Copperfield doesn't live here anymore.
There are no tuxedo-clad rabbit tuggers on stage at Broadway's Eugene O'Neill Theater where Penn and Teller, those terminally hip pranksters of mirth and magic, are currently holding forth in their latest entertainment "The Refrigerator Tour."The show, which opened April 4, is called "The Refrigerator Tour" because the evening opens with a 450-pound, frost-free Amana dropping from the heavens on our two heroes. The guys are not flattened, of course, but they are stymied for a moment about what to do as an encore.
What Penn and Teller have come up with is a mixed bag of old and new, and the results provide only middlin' to fair fun. Some of the team's older bits seem a little shop-worn now. Have frequent television appearances dulled their novelty?
Particularly laborious is an extended segment that involves the revelation of a biblical quotation in a glass jug suspended high above the stage. The payoff isn't much for all the huffing and puffing the trick requires. The same goes for the reappearance of Mofo, the Psychic Gorilla, a phony simian who should be retired to a cut-rate carny show.
Penn and Teller are at their best when they are debunking the mystique of magic. They take special pleasure in showing you how a trick is done. By letting us in on the secret, the sleight of hand becomes that much more fascinating.
There always has been an element of violence to their creepy sorcery, and the best of it can be unnerving - particularly if you haven't seen it before. The possibility of harm or bodily injury permeates many of their sketches but is at its most threatening in the finale when Teller attempts to pull bait out of an assortment of fearsome traps. It's a powerful statement in support of animal rights.
Penn, the husky, tall one with a ponytail, never stops talking, and his verbal harassment eventually takes its toll. Something sinister lurks behind Teller's goofy smile, but he's easier to take. For much of the show he is silent, letting his gymnastic ability and just plain weirdness carry the show.
There is one interesting sidelight to "The Refrigerator Tour," the duo's second visit to Broadway. The first time out, the audience seemed to be in genuine terror that the burly Penn would coerce them into assisting with the duo's foolishness.
Now they can't keep theatergoers from running over each other on their way to the stage. Their audience certainly knows what to expect, and for a show that depends a lot on surprise, that isn't a very good sign.