The Psychic Cafe | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Psychic Cafe 

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The Psychic Cafe, Zeitgeist Theater, at the Royal George Theatre Center. Though the performers repeat "answer the question" throughout this awkward blend of prognostication and theater, one question remains: Why bother? True, Zeitgeist hit the jackpot with Flanagan's Wake, an audience-interactive Irish wake currently being franchised across the country. But The Psychic Cafe fails to reproduce that show's brisk pace and irreverent tone, mostly because it waffles continuously between lampooning psychics and placing them on a pedestal.

Cocreator (and poetry slam mastermind) Marc Smith presides over the show's motley collection of actors and psychics. In the humiliating role of Zarek, the Illustrated Man, Smith sports cheesy rub-on tattoos and attempts to tie the show together with an endless stream of mystical mumbo jumbo. The rest of the actors do a convincing enough job improvising around audience members' input, but the absence of plot means that the show's only true drawing card is a complimentary psychic reading with each admission. Which would be a great gimmick if it weren't such an obvious attempt to expose the rubes. And the only way to fight the boredom of the show's frequent, lengthy intermissions is to shell out five dollars to one of the astrologers, palmists, or channelers for another reading. Of course, with all those psychics on hand, it's a wonder no one predicted The Psychic Cafe would be such a dud.

--Nick Green

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