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Theater Review: Geffen’s Inside the Box Thinks Outside the Box

David Kwong shares his voluminous knowledge about puzzles and games in Inside the Box.

For sure, the basic-level wordplay in this review’s title isn’t up to the standards of Inside the Box, the new Zoom-based show from the Geffen Stayhouse (the virtual version of Westwood’s Geffen Playhouse). Puzzlemaster David Kwong, a magician and New York Times crossword puzzle creator, has crafted a fun and highly interactive show with puzzles of varying degrees of complexity.

Upbeat and engaging, Inside the Box offers dozens of puzzles in a variety of styles. If you listen to Will Shortz on NPR’s Weekend Edition, or if you ever subscribed to Games Magazine, buy a ticket without delay. If you’re an occasional crossword puzzler or just enjoy wordplay, you’ll still find much to like about Inside the Box.

Note that audience members are full participants who are asked to keep their video on and stay unmuted. They’re given a plethora of puzzles, including a batch that arrive via email prior to the show. No getting distracted during this show! You’ll feel competitive as others raise their hands to indicate they’ve solved something you’re still struggling with. Or maybe that’s just me.

Similar to the Geffen’s smash The Present (don’t miss your chance to check it out this weekend), Inside the Box is perfectly adapted to the virtual realm. While The Present featured Helder Guimarães’ personal story, Kwong presents historical information about the birth and development of different types of games and puzzles and profiles of groundbreaking puzzlers, including the afore-mentioned Shortz, as well as some lesser-known women. Kwong has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things puzzling.

He was about to premiere his one-man show The Enigmatist at the Geffen. But, as he notes, “We’re at our most creative when we have to work within parameters.” The proof is in this well-designed show. Kwong draws parallels between the boxes we used to organize our lives, such as the dates on wall calendars, to his own puzzle box, from which he pulls delightful surprises, to the audience boxes on Zoom. As he points out, both metaphorically and actually, “We’re all in boxes.”

On the quarantine, Kwong points out, “We can always find a solution if we come together.” He puts this philosophy into action with a unique show that brings homebound strangers together in a shared love of fun and games.

Word play abounds in Inside the Box. Speaking of word play, taken together, the first letter of each paragraph sums up this reviewer’s take.

For more information and to purchase tickets for Inside the Box, click here. Tickets are $75 per household. The show is almost completely sold out through Jan. 3, 2021, but new dates are likely to be added.

Ticket buyers receive an email containing a packet of information about the show and a pre-show puzzle whose answer factors into the fun.
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Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Theatre West.

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