Escape Artists

Dir. Michael Laurence (2005 90 mins, 1.66)

The Escape Artist is a dark and stylish story of longing, illusion, and the search for unconditional love. Shot in a bruised night palette, a dual narrative follows two escape artists, across a fateful week in a NYC twilight world inhabited by colorful guttersnipes and street performers.


Inspired by Soren Kierkegaard’s philosophical novel “Either/Or,” The Escape Artist is a dark and stylish story of longing, illusion, and the search for unconditional love. Shot in a bruised night palette, a dual narrative follows two escape artists, across a fateful week in a NYC twilight world inhabited by colorful guttersnipes and street performers.

Gabriel Grey is a former celebrity illusionist and modern-day Houdini. Plagued by depression and a deep existential doubt about his identity as a performer, he has abandoned his fame and career and is crashing with a charismatic street performer and fellow escape artist named Billy Bane in a dilapidated squat in the East Village. Sleepless, drinking himself to the brink, and driven by romantic compulsions he himself does not fully understand, Gabriel tries to find / escape himself in dispassionate affairs with several women (Dixon, a beautiful and trusting poet; Rachel, an acerbic dominatrix; Doe, a tormented socialite; and Magalie, a fetching shop girl) who love him devotedly. But his romantic intrigues quickly become a house of cards, and he drifts ever closer to suicide in a slowburn dream of sexual oblivion.

Billy Bane, a straitjacket escape specialist, is a gentle soul frightened by dangerous signs of schizophrenia. Living under the constant threat of eviction from a calculating and eccentric landlord, and cut off from welfare, he medicates himself with drugs he hustles on the street, and experiences love only as a fantasist lost in old Garbo films. However, unlike his doomed friend Gabriel, he yearns to reveal himself in the restorative power of love. While performing escape stunts at street fairs and downtown fetish clubs, he finds himself “stalked” by Chloe, a lonely 8th Ave. peepshow girl and kindred spirit. As he cautiously unmasks himself to her, he discovers refuge in her protective and unconditional love.



JOSH HAMILTON (Billy Bane) has starred in several major independent and studio films including ALIVE (w/ Ethan Hawke, Universal), THE HOUSE OF YES (w/ Parker Posey, Miramax), ON-LINE, URBANIA, KICKING AND SCREAMING, WITH HONORS, FREAKS TALK ABOUT SEX, WEST OF HERE, LANDFALL, ANOTHER WOMAN, DRIVE SHE SAID, WOMEN AND WALLACE, and the NBC mini-series, THE 60’S. Also an acclaimed stage actor, he recently starred on Broadway in the TONY award winning play PROOF.

ANNA THOMSON (Doe) achieved cult stardom in the Amos Kollick films SUE, FIONA, and FAST FOOD, FAST WOMEN. She has also starred in UNFORGIVEN, THE CROW, WATER DROPS ON BURNING ROCKS, and Rebecca Miller’s ANGELA. Other credits include: I SHOT ANDY WARHOL, TRUE ROMANCE, BRIDGET, CAFE˜ SOCIETY, DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN, SIX WAYS TO SUNDAY, FATAL ATTRACTION, AT CLOSE RANGE, and HEAVEN’S GATE.

NINA HELLMAN (Chloe) recently played the title role in THE MARY KAY LETOURNEAU STORY for Fox Network. Other film credits include WET, HOT, AMERICAN SUMMER and TRICK.

MICHAEL LAURENCE (Gabriel Grey) has starred in the independent films THE OPERATOR; FOLLOW ME OUTSIDE, and LOVE GOD. Other film credits include THE MINISTER’S BLACK VEIL, PARTICLES OF TRUTH, and CLAIRE DOLAN. He has guest-starred on THIRD WATCH, FX: THE SERIES, GHOST STORIES, and AS THE WORLD TURNS. Broadway, Off-Broadway and Regional theater credits include the world premiere of Eric Bogosian’s HUMPTY DUMPTY, Sam Shepard’s TOOTH OF CRIME, Bridget Carpenter’s THE FACULTY ROOM, Lanford Wilson’s BOOK OF DAYS, John Guare’s LYDIE BREEZE, TAPE, INVENTING VAN GOGH, HANDS IN WARTIME, and POORFELLAS.

Over the last decade since graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, he has garnered extensive NY theater credits as a director and producer including: THE DROWNING PAGES, I AM A COFFIN, THE MASTER OF MONSTROSITIES (LaMama, etc.), MY GREEN HADES (Bosakowski Theater/Primary Stages), ELEGIES (Living Theater, Theater for a New City), CHOP OFF YOUR EAR (Orensanz Foundation), QUICK BRIGHT THINGS (HERE), and EDWARD II (The Red Room). His deconstructed version of HAMLET, HAMLET IN BED, is in development with WHATMANWHATCAR Theater Co., of which he is a co-founder. He is currently attached as co-director of the upcoming MAVERICK at The Culture Project. He wrote and directed two stage versions of THE ESCAPE ARTIST. The first was produced in 1996 at Tribeca Lab. The second (a multi-media piece which incorporated experimental video) was work shopped at Primary Stages/Phil Bosakowski Theater in 1999.

TATIANA ABBEY (Magalie)

ALENE DAWSON (Dixon St. James)

GEORGE DEMAS (Luther)

PETER DINKLAGE (Mr. Duff)

LEE DOBSON (Mr. Carter)

PAUL LAZAR (Rachel’s slave)

EDGAR OLIVER (Gottlieb)

MARC PALMIERI (Hustler)

BRIAN SLOAN (Donald)

REBECCA WISOCKY (Rachel)

MARY LOU WITMER (Anna)



Principal Crew

a SHADOWGRAPH FILM produced in association with GLASS EYE PIX
“ESCAPE ARTISTS”
with JOSH HAMILTON ~ ANNA THOMSON ~ NINA HELLMAN ~ MICHAEL LAURENCE
Casting WHATMANWHATCAR Director of Photography ELIA LYSSY
Art Director EDGAR OLIVER original paintings by HELEN OLIVER, JOHN STANLEY
Production Sound BRAD RAPPA Assistant Directors JOHN SULLIVAN, TRACEY ALLRED
Production AARON HOWARD, GEORGE DEMAS, MARC PALMIERI, SAUL FUSSINER
Editor MICHAEL PILGRAM Assistant Editors KATIE COX, JESSICA SCHARZER
Producers SHERRI BERMAN, KAREN MCCARTHY Associate Producer ELIZABETH PARIS
Executive Producer FRANK LAURENCE
writer, director MICHAEL LAURENCE
©2003 Shadowgraph Films