By Lynn Venhaus
A fascinating piece that combines intricate magic feats with intimate storytelling, “Forget Me Not” is an uncommon presentation.
Illusionist Kyle Marlett engages with an original and autobiographical one-man show that is much more than sleight of hand magic tricks and stunning visuals. As nifty as those inspired bits are, they are part of a bigger picture.
This is not your flashy extravaganza with pulsating music and fancy lighting that you often see as show biz spectacles — nor is it lacking artistry. Quite the contrary. It’s a one-of-a-kind rumination on learning, living, and leaving a mark, done with tender care.
This ambitious production appears to be a solo enterprise, but it’s not, for he has an accomplished cohort. Gunnar Sizemore, an actor who has appeared as Micah in the TV series “Nashville,” is Marlett’s co-creator. He is a director and voice actor, too, known for voicing Bao in the TV series “Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny,” among others.
The unusual set design – walls of boxes, some opening for effect, was co-designed with Patrick Huber. Several boxes hang from the ceiling, and are timed to drop as part of the show.
The subdued atmosphere includes low lighting and smoky effects, and the sound is soft. Huber was the lighting designer, too, and Marlett designed the sound.
Wearing his heart on his sleeve, Marlett shares his life story in a measured tone, with striking visual flourishes along the journey – such as recounting the times he and his brother shared giant bowls of cereal after school.
He has been estranged from that brother because of drugs. His brother’s woes and his father’s alcoholism didn’t make for a happy childhood, and he grew up escaping into his own fantasy world.
Magic enthralled him from the get-go and determined his path. His story’s unique, yet familiar, and that’s the endgame goal here – to engage people in a memorable way.
It’s doubtful that you’ve seen anything like it before. I know I haven’t.
Marlett has more than 1.5 million followers online and has been on such television shows as “The Tonight Show,” “Penn and Teller’s Fool Us,” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” He has also produced magic for movies and streaming series. A few years ago, he appeared at The Gaslight Theatre “in a very different show,” he told me.
Now, this show’s purpose is to focus on more meaningful connections. You know, the heavy stuff – Why are we here? What happens after we’re gone – who will tell our stories? What impact can we have? The clock is ticking, so how do we go about being remembered?
Marlett respectfully asked the audience for their thoughts, and to share some details, while he incorporated magic into the structure. Without razzle-dazzle, they were quite impressive – and the audience reacted warmly.
This is a departure from the customary fare at St. Louis Actors’ Studio but follows that theme of connection that’s been ever-present in our post-pandemic (well, post-vaccine) world.
The feeling of a shared experience, like live theater represents, remains.
The St. Louis Actors’ Studio presents “Forget Me Not,” Dec. 3-18, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. in The Gaslight Theatre. It is 75 minutes without an intermission. Box office 314-458-2978 or www.ticketmaster, or one-hour before each show. For more information, visit www.stlas.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.