Magic: The Gathering, a trading card game representing epic battles between wizards, has an estimated 20 million active players worldwide. Judging from the enthusiastic reaction of the audience at the opening night’s performance of Color Theory, some of the game’s fervent devotees were right there, in the room.
For the uninitiated, picture a card deck full of wizards (called planeswalkers for their ability to move across time and place in the multiverse) who use a vast array of spells, objects, and fantastic creatures to defeat their opponents. New cards are released periodically, professional tournaments abound, and there is a huge market for old and rare cards, epitomized by a mysterious black lotus image worth thousands of dollars.
All this sets the stage for Joseph Price’s creative one-man show, a deep dive into the world of Magic, with its highs and lows, aspirations, triumphs and tragedies. He accomplishes this through skilled story-telling illustrated by what is essentially a fun and sophisticated Power Point deck that traces his progress through a tournament. Pausing every so often, Price draws his audience into the piece by playing short games of their own.
With Director Amy Couchoud, who collaborates frequently with Price, and Julia Sienkiewicz on lights and board, Color Theory moves along with style and grace.
Despite its non-human subjects, Color Theory is an intensely human play. The title itself relates to the varieties of human strivings attributed to the various background colors in a Magic deck. White, for instance, connotes peace through structure, while blue stands for perfection through knowledge. Iconic pop culture figures, we are told, from Indiana Jones and Katniss Everdeen to Prince, are imbued with multiple, often clashing, color-attributes, which deepens our fascination with them.
The ultimate human aspect of Price’s piece, however, is depicted not by the color attributes themselves, but by the act of playing the game, and the people with whom we play. Magic enabled Price to form a powerful bond with his younger brother, creating a sacred space into which they descended almost daily during their youth, quite apart from the adult world. Nostalgia for that now-lost past provides a powerful emotional thread throughout the show.
You don’t have to be an experienced card player to enjoy this novel and compelling theatrical piece. In fact, it is quite rewarding even if you have never opened a Magic deck. Price’s ability to make the story nearly universal in its emotional appeal assures both Magic fanatics and total novices of a wonderfully satisfying experience.
Running Time: 60 minutes, with no intermission.