Review by Fury. First published at IllegitimateTheatre.com
When Magic Steven walked onto the stage, I’ll admit to being a little bit worried.
His opening music played and he pulled out a notebook of which he started reading from not unlike a fifteen year old high schooler might do for his out-loud homework assignment. I shuffled in my seat. I worried for him. This could all go so horrifically wrong. I felt like I would be spending the next hour trapped, listening to the smatterings of sympathy-laughs from the audience; something I find more cringe-worthy than The Office. I needn’t have been worried, however, as before I knew it I was full-belly laughing with the rest of the crowd.
Magic Steven: Try to Love Everyone is a very minimalistic show. The flashiest aspect of which is when he says “thanks Jess” at the end of each piece and Jess, presumably, plays the music. His really, really, really deadpan tone of voice and presentation compliments the style of writing to a tee. It’s quirky, sideways writing filtered through absurd half-logic that makes Steven so funny.
He describes talking to a girl at a party about how sometimes he pretends to drive his car: sitting in it behind the wheel completely stationary but pretending to be turning down streets and the like. This sort of childhood playfulness is completely lost on her – especially when he sees her later on that evening, parked in the driveway of his friend’s house. He toots at her, waves, then continues to pretend driving on.
Ultimately Steven’s Try to Love Everyone strikes startlingly close to A Complete History of My Sexual Failures –an auto-bio-documentary about Chris Waitt who spends the entire documentary trying to figure out why his romantic relationships failed so miserably. Try to Love Everyone, however, has less self-flagellation and better humour as the stories that Steven’s encounters are largely very personable.
I imagine actually encountering one of these odd instances Steven describes would actually be a bit intimidating and confusing. They were funny to hear from him, though, because Steven himself seems very intimidated and confused; harshly nudged onwards by an internalised idea of society’s expectation to find and keep a girlfriend.
It’s both endearing and unsettling to see him become aware of his own biases and objectifications of women. Compelled to be a better person and conflicted about how to do so, he comes across as torn; incapable of approaching or understanding both the biases he has and the symptomatic echoes of objectification.
This may well be a farcical act that he puts on – an extended characterisation of a facet of himself – but in an age where women are subjects of extreme harassment online (amongst other things) this sort of representation is interesting and really important in understanding how society shapes men’s actions towards sexual partners.