What makes immersive experiences so appealing is that they give the audience an opportunity to break the fourth wall. That’s why site-specific pieces are often staged in places like apartments, warehouses, or even bathtubs: There’s an unparalleled connection between you and the story, which unfolds all around you.
But when it comes to magic shows, the maintenance of that fourth wall is integral to not only the performance, but also to the art and craft of magic itself.
Michael Borys and Alex Lieu’s 49 Boxes places the art of magic center stage, aiming to not just tear down that fourth wall but obliterate it completely. They accomplish this goal wonderfully, in ways that continue to reveal themselves long after the show is over.
At the start of the show, the audience was seated around a series of tables in the ballroom of an exclusive members-only club in San Francisco, much of which was taken up by a display showing the titular boxes. At the center of that display was a larger box adorned with many different padlocks, and a few other curious artifacts were staged alongside it, including an antique record player emitting soft, crooning jazz. Between this and the dimmed lights, the atmosphere was subdued and intimate.
The evening’s premise, like most illusions, is simple enough — on the surface. The audience is told that Floyd G. Thayer, a famed inventor of magical illusions, left behind a final mystery, sealed away in a box protected by 19 padlocks. It would be up to us to solve puzzles, unlock all the locks, and reveal Thayer’s final secret.