It’s rare that, after finishing a review, I’m ready to see the show again. But then, The Tarot Reading changes with every performance, so it will never be the same. Two years ago, my first introduction to The Tarot Reading was one of surprise: thinking it would be a light comic evening of faux fortune telling with some dreaded ‘audience participation’. Instead, I was taken on a jaunty ride by several conductors: each with a piece that differed wildly in tone and intent.
Before I tell you of this year’s experience, let’s begin with a slight introduction. When you purchase a ticket, you choose between being a Seeker and a Witness. Seekers are more participatory (hint: sign up to be a Seeker.) Yet there’s no fortune told; instead, the card you draw from the Tarot deck is used as a springboard for the performers, known as Mediums, to bring their (always true) stories to you. Each Medium has but three or four minutes to devote to their assigned cards, and though there is a good deal of improvisation, each story has been carefully crafted beforehand.
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If that’s so, you ask, then why is it always different? Different cards will be chosen, different Seekers will add to the mix. Opening night brought The Tower, where a Medium (Rachel Menyuk) instructed a Seeker to pack a knapsack from a table full of objects in preparation for an alien invasion (alas, our Seeker forgot socks and the teddy bear); The Stars (Medium Rebecca Speas) showed us the vastness of space using only yarn and a tiny plastic microscope; the Wheel of Fortune (Medium Shaquille Stewart) brought out a marvelous ad hoc rap about failure.
The Tarot Reading V from The Arcanists closes May 26, 2019. Details and tickets
Sometimes a piece hits the jackpot with its Seeker: audience member Kenneth Strader, having been dealt The Emperor card, was not only a natural comic but also the perfect foil to Medium David S Kessler. Turns out that kneading bread dough and wielding power over imaginary subjects are remarkably similar skills. And Medium Toni Rae Salmi also had a fortunate run of luck the same evening, as Seeker audience member Samantha Ondrusek drew The Devil card, thus treating the audience to a fully killer rock’n’roll duet between the two- all energy and no rehearsal makes the Devil take to his heels and the lucky audience whoop and holler.
And sometimes a piece is so well thought out it barely needs a Seeker: Medium Gwen Grasdorf’s The Magician is a miniature tour de force; while telling us of her father’s inability to speak the truth she mixed in some magic.
I predict that the session of Tarot Reading V you’ll attend will surprise you and leaving you wanting to come back to jump on their ride again.
Recommended for 18 and above due to adult language.
The Tarot Reading V . Directors: Joan Cummins, and Alan Katz . Cast: The Fool/Emcee: Joan Cummins, Mediums: Gwen Grasdorf, David S. Kessler, Rachel Menyuk; Toni Rae Salmi; Rebecca Speas; Shaquille Stewart; Yasmin Tuazon . Casting: Jon Jon Johnson . Safety Coordinators: Allyson Harkey, Doug Robinson . Production Designer: Niomi Collard . Interactivity Coaches: Allyson Harkey, Doug Robinson . Production Manager, Assistant: Cody Whitfield, Bryan Boyd . Stage managers: Bryan Boyd, Alastair Canavan . Produced by The Arcanists . Reviewed by Jill Kyle-Keith.