Can you imagine coming face to face with your idol? How would you act? Could you even form the words to speak?
In Margot Connolly's production of Keys, one lucky young lady has that very experience when she becomes immersed in the world of her hero, the master escapist Harry Houdini. Part of the 9th Annual FRIGID Festival (Feb 18 - March 8 at the Kraine Theater and UNDER St. Marks), and under Alex Keegan's direction, Keys challenges the typical portrayal of an idol and suggests that sometimes a true human connection underneath an imagined "perfect" exterior may be the real magic that we are are searching for.
Teenage Thea (played by Coral Smith) is struggling with the death of her father and piecing her life at home back together with her mother, Beth (Xan Russell), and Beth's new boyfriend, Steve (Dominik Eisenschmidt). The only sense of comfort Thea has is talking to a life-size portrait of Houdini, as she believes that he is the only one who can keep the lines of communication with her father open. Her mother is greatly troubled by this and blames herself for not keeping a tighter hold on everything going on in her daughter's life, including constant stomachaches that one day land Thea in the hospital. As she is being treated for appendicitis and is put under, Thea is transported from her hospital bed to a chamber where she finds herself in the presence of Houdini (Sean O' Brien). Having lost his own mother, Houdini shares her pain and is honest in his explanation of the grieving and acceptance process -- much to the chagrin of Thea, who wishes for a "magic" fix.
Smith delivers a heartfelt performance with the youthful (and at times naive) energy of a child aching for a hero to save her; O'Brien is sincere and straightforward as Houdini, handling Thea's feelings with care. His performance makes the audience admire his authenticity -- something you wouldn't associate with the greatest illusionist of all time.
Keys succeeds at deciphering what an idol actually is, beyond the fantasy. The light and beauty we often see in others is really the key to our own potential, ready to be unlocked and ready to prepare us for our own journey -- and that's where the true magic lies.