Reviews

Stalker ***1/2

By: Paulanne Simmons

April 1, 2024: Although it’s called Stalker, street magicians and illusionists Peter Brynolf and Jonas Ljung’s New York theatrical debut has nothing to do with following and watching anyone for a long period of time, and certainly in no way that is annoying or frightening. Rather their show, directed by Edward Af Sillén, is a combination of magic tricks, mentalist feats and mesmerizing illusion.

Peter Brynolf and Jonas Ljung.

By: Paulanne Simmons

April 1, 2024: Although it’s called Stalker, street magicians and illusionists Peter Brynolf and Jonas Ljung’s New York theatrical debut has nothing to do with following and watching anyone for a long period of time, and certainly in no way that is annoying or frightening. Rather their show, directed by Edward Af Sillén, is a combination of magic tricks, mentalist feats and mesmerizing illusion.

Most of Brynolf and Ljung’s stunts are not particularly new to anyone who has seen this kind of show before. They make objects disappear and reappear. They divine people’s personal information, such as phone numbers and annoying traits. They guess what individuals are going to do before the individuals even know it themselves.

But there are a few tricks that are less familiar and more puzzling. Spoons are not only bent through the powers of concentration; they are also straightened out again. The touch of a finger scrawling a name on one person’s arm is felt by another person standing several feet away. What’s more, that name miraculously appears on the other person’s arm. And you don’t want to know what Brynolf and Ljung can do to your cell phone.

Jonas Ljung

Of course we understand, we’ve been told, mentalists and illusionists achieve these feats mostly by misdirection and suggestion. But somehow that still doesn’t explain what our eyes refuse to believe.

Most of Brynolf and Ljung’s artifice is accomplished with the aid of audience members. Some have volunteered before the show; others are randomly selected. But for the most part, Brynolf and Ljung’s interaction with these people ends with the magic. We never learn enough about those selected to make them interesting or the interaction as funny as it is amazing. 

Nor, for that matter, do we learn much about Brynolf and Ljung, other than that they’re both Swedish. This is unfortunate because they have an interesting story. 

Peter Brynol

Brynolf and Ljung first came to prominence in 2009 when they won the silver medal in Comedy Magic at the World Championships of Magic in Beijing. Soon they so impressed Penn & Teller on the first season of the television series, Penn & Teller: Fool Us! that they began opening for these more established Americans. Eventually, they got their own television show, Street Magic, which played to half a million Swedish viewers each week. And now Penn & Teller are making their theater producing debut by staging Stalker.

Stalker is not like a high wire act that tantalizes and frightens us by the possibility of failure. We know Brynolf and Ljung are going to deliver. We may be amazed, but we’re not surprised. And without a narrative, after a while even the most miraculous becomes mundane.

Stalker ***1/2
New World Stages, 340 West 50 Street
Runs through September 1, 2024
Photography: Jeremy Daniel