Friday, April 13, 2018

CT Review: An Evening with James Mapes

An Evening With James Mapes
Fairfield Theatre Company

By Lauren Yarger
In the midst of the crazy end-of-theater-season schedule, I took a break to see a show I have been wanting to see for years: Master of the Imagination, featuring James Mapes, an actor, entertainer and showman, who recently performed a one-night-only performance of the show at Fairfield Theater Company's Stage One.

A Connecticut resident, Mapes delights with an evening of applied imagination -- what you might think of as mind reading -- rounded out with hypnosis, storytelling, humor and just a dash of magic. The show recently was performed as a fundraiser on hurricane-ravaged St. Thomas where he and his wife have a home.

A video with a welcome from Anthony Hopkins as well as island scenes shown to the tune of "Cheeseburger in Paradise" get the evening off to a fun start. Mapes states up front that he's not a  psychic. Instead, he uses suggestion and persuasion and the results are quite entertaining thanks to participation by audience members who allow Mapes to play with their subconscious minds.

In one demonstration, Mapes let's the audience in on secrets for being able to tell when a person is lying. He gives a number of $20 bills to a participant and takes one back each time the volunteer is caught in a lie. At the Fairfield show, Mapes had selected an audience member very skilled in deception and he lost one of the bills -- something that doesn't happen very often, he tells us. Roaring his hearty laugh, which brightens the performance throughout, Mapes accepted defeat while explaining how he missed -- what facial features or eye contact might have suggested truth. 

Suddenly a man walked down the aisle and up on stage. He apparently had attended a previous show hosted by Mapes years ago when the hypnotist embedded a subconscious suggestion compelling the man to follow directions should he ever hear a particular prompt. Hearing the right words in dialogue during the show in Fairfield, the man followed the suggestion came forward and stepped up on stage. He had no idea that he had done so.

An extended hypnosis and age regression demonstration fills most of the second act of the show, which runs more than two hours. At Mapes's suggestion, people fall asleep on command and are unable to remember their own names. During intermission, audience members talked with each speculating on how Mapes had done some of his "tricks." The informal atmosphere allows the audience to feel like they are enjoying an evening with a friend and questions are welcome during the show as well.

Mapes's talent isn't limited to the stage, where he has presented several version of the show including A Journey to the Imagination. He puts his more than 40 years of studying human behavior into action as a motivational speaker working with major corporations like British Airways, Sprint, IBM and others whose employees have enjoyed his "Imagine That!," "True Leadership" or "Mind Over Body" programs. He has entertained government agencies and even was flown to Saudi Arabia where he amazed a sheikh. He also works with cancer patients to minimize pain and beeding during procedures.

His book, "Quantum Leap Thinking: An Owner's Guide to the Mind," deals with how to make quick,  positive change in one's life and his latest, "Imagine That: Igniting Your Brain for Creativity and Peak Performance" shows readers how to apply imagination to productivity.

For more information, visit

Full disclosure: Mapes's wife, Susan Granger, is a theater critic colleague.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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