When renowned puzzle master, magician, and New York Times crossword constructor David Kwong discovered his show The Enigmatist, was postponed due to the coronavirus last Spring, Kwong and the Geffen Staycation team got creative to keep stay-at-home audiences entertained.
Picking up a Rubik cube, Kwong was inspired to create his new show Inside the Box via Zoom. It’s the perfect stage for games and word play, as Kwong designed a 5 x 5 grid box and filled it with 25 ticket holders. Kwong helps each participant think “inside the box” while solving word play and multi-layered puzzles in a safe environment.
“It’s a weird time right now and many people are trying to find ways to be together during the pandemic,” said Kwong“We all have more in common with puzzle masters in the world, than one would think.”
A few days before the show, I received an email with a link to download and print a packet of instructions and puzzles. On page 3 of the packet was a “pre-show” puzzle that needed to be solved before logging onto Zoom. There were also three pages of alphabetical letters that needed to be cut out for one of Kwong’s “Puzzle Time” moments. I also needed to bring with me at showtime a red item, a pencil or pen, and a game piece to a game board.
Amir the Geffen house manager, welcomed each person as they logged in and made sure they had their show packet ready. He stayed with us throughout the duration of the show to make sure it ran smoothly, to mute and unmute participates during various puzzle challenges.
While I enjoyed participating in the interactive puzzle-solving games, my husband found the historical part of the show interesting. Our host shared facts and stories about some innovative people who created puzzles, that included the ancient Greeks. “Humans are programmed to make order out of chaos,” said Kwong, “that’s why puzzles are so important right now.”
We learn about “Puzzle God” Martin Gardner. This recreational mathematician and accomplished magician was an inspiration to David Kwong. During one of the “Puzzle Time” moments, we learn that John Spilsbury, a British cartographer and engraver is credited as the inventor of the jigsaw puzzle in 1766, calling them “dissected maps.”
Parker Brothers created jigsaw puzzles in America in 1908, and they became hugely popular during the Depression. “Jigsaw puzzles are for amusement, a distraction and solace,” said Kwong. Jigsaw puzzles are a time for family and friends to connect with each other, similar to how the pieces of a jigsaw connect to create a finished picture.
One of the most fascinating stories was about Margaret Ferrar, the founding puzzle editor of The New York Times in the 1940s. Kwong shared how the New York Times said crossword puzzles were sinful and a waste of time in the 1920s and 30s. “They changed their tune during WWII when times were bleak, and people needed a distraction.” Similar times to today with the coronavirus, Farrar’s puzzles inspired people to forget about their troubles.
“This is the Golden Age of puzzles and games. Before the coronavirus, Escape Rooms became the rage, now people are benefiting and stimulating their minds by working on a puzzles,” said Kwong.
For a change of pace, a laugh, and brain tease, be part of Inside The Box.
The first release of tickets Sold Out, Inside The Box has been extended through January 3, 2021. You can sign up for personal notifications when tickets become available at https://www.geffenplayhouse.org/tickets/inside-the-box-notification/
Written and Performed by David Kwong
Previews: Tuesday, September 29 – Wednesday, October 7
Opening Night: Thursday, October 8
Closing Night: Sunday, November 8
PRODUCTION TEAM CREDITS
Creative Director Brett J. Banakis
Puzzle Consultant Dave Shukan
Video Designer Josh Higgason
Dramaturg Amy Levinson
Monday No performance
Tuesday 6:00 p.m. PT
Wednesday 8:00 p.m. PT
Thursday 6:00 p.m. PT
Friday 8:00 p.m. PT
Saturday 3:00 and 8:00 p.m. PT
Sunday 2:00 and 7:00 p.m. PT
Tickets are currently priced at $55.00 – $65.00 per household. Available by phone at (310)208-2028 or online at www.geffenplayhouse.org.