Orson Welles, a man with no shortage of tricks up his sleeve, was fond of saying he never once met anyone who actually wanted to see a magic trick. His point was that a magician's personality is just as important an asset as any other skill: if they can persuade an audience to watch their act in the first place, the job is halfway done.
LOTTO: Karma of the Alchemist, part of the Assembly's Korean season, exemplifies the truth of Welles's observation. While many of the tricks are technically impressive and beautifully executed, it is the prodigiously talented quartet behind them whose performances and personae amuse and enchant.
Four disparate individuals become entwined in misadventure through their mutual dream of a jackpot lottery win: a gambling addict whose attempts at suicide are repeatedly and comically thwarted, a bearish, Harpo-like clown/thief, a suave magician, and the whimsical, pixieish alchemist of the title, whose time-manipulating pocket watch provides some of LOTTO's best physical comedy.
While the magic itself is fast-paced, little of it comes unaccompanied by elaborate set-pieces and dreamlike world-building, which is the show's greatest strength besides the endearing tricksters themselves. The heightened, virtually dialogue-free fantasia they inhabit—somewhere between the Wizard of Oz and a Three Stooges routine—quickly becomes intoxicating, even when the jokes occasionally grow broad or the trickery a little familiar.
Sweet without ever being sentimental, punctuated by brief injections of unexpectedly dark humour, LOTTO is a delightful, surprising fairy tale.