There have been a lot of news articles lately about Broadway actors becoming agitated by audience members using their cell phones. But there’s no need to fear any of that at “Penn & Teller on Broadway,” where people are actually encouraged to turn on their cell phones as the start.
The ubiquitous illusionist-comedian duo Penn Jillette and Teller, who have been performing together onstage and on television for 40 years, are taking a short break for their long-running Las Vegas show to appear on Broadway for six weeks.
With Penn serving as a tell-it-like-it-is narrator and Teller as a silent, physical comedy mime, the two perform about a dozen stunts over 90 minutes, ranging from transporting someone’s cell phone into a fish to cringe-worthy stuff like swallowing 100 needles. They also pull a rabbit out of a hat, which is apparently very hard to do.
Audience participation is almost mandatory. Everyone is invited onstage to tour the props before the show begins. Toward the end, dozens of people form a human chain around a cow dressed up like an elephant before it vanishes.
Unpretentious and skeptical, Penn and Teller do not profess to be any more than old-fashioned entertainers, and they make a point of bashing psychics and mediums. Their libertarian ideology even makes its way in, as when attempt to get a metal copy of the Bill of Rights through a replica of an airline metal detector.
In one great bit, Penn breaks down the essential secrets of magic based on Teller’s body movement. Even so, you are still likely to have no clue how most of the stunts are pulled off, like when Teller correctly guesses what dirty joke a young boy randomly picked out of a book.