Somewhere in 1914 Albania, Giorgio, a destitute cabaret perfomer (his act: accompanying himself on a guitar strummed with his erect member), catches sight of a newspaper article. Harry Houdini has canceled a Paris show. Suddenly inspired, he collects his assistant Pappo; his girlfriend Mariella; and her priggish sister, Dora. Piling them into a wagon, Giorgio sets out for the City of Lights and certain fame.
The premise of The Escapist— the new work from Flying Machine, a band of Jacques Lecoqtrained performers— has a sordid storybook charm. But the company’s working methods prove a detriment to the piece. The actors also serve as writers and directors, which leaves no outside eye to rein in their dramatic excesses or clarify the story. While the actors have each crafted a well-formed character— and, collectively, created a distinct world— the fable’s resonance gets shackled by its self-indulgent shtick, chained by repetition. Unlike Houdini, this show can’t escape its bonds.