Review Monday Night Magic 4/29/02
Max is in town! The word went forth and the faithful assembled at the McGinn/Cazale Theater on Broadway and 76th Street in Manhattan, the new home of Monday Night Magic, the weekly magic show with an ever-changing cast. Jamy Ian Swiss played host to Max Maven , Puck and Alexander with close-up by Simon Lovell, Belinda Sinclair and Camilo Vazquez.
Jamy Ian Swiss, Genii book reviewer and the self-styled Honest Liar, kept things moving at a brisk pace with a charming presence and quick wit. Because of the shows length, Jamy wisely restricted his performing to a single effect, Diamond Jack, an original full-deck story trick using a huge deck of cards. The humor is so outrageously pun-filled and Jamy so obviously enjoys performing the trick that the audience was swept up in the good humor.
I have watched Puck, the young Baltimore performer, develop from a nervous beginner into a confident, talented magician. Ive reviewed Pucks act several times in the past, so Ill just say that he performs with doves, appearing and disappearing candles, silks and the appearance from a silk fountain of an enormous cockatoo. Puck brought the house down.
Alexander is the name under which Alex Feldman performs. Dressed in full court jester costume and speaking a strange amalgam of French, Russian, Italian and blather, his act is very hard to describe - it consists of juggling, playing the recorder through his nose, playing three recorders at once and all of this while bounding around the stage with a high energy, manic humor that the audience loved.
At intermission time, Monday Night Magic presents close-up in the theater and in a featured close-up gallery. Simon Lovell, that wild and crazy Englishman-turned-American performed effects ending with his cocktail napkin transformed to paper rose; Belinda Sinclair charmed with cards and in the gallery, I watched Spains Camilo Vazquez perform miracles. A founder of the famed Escuala Magica de Madrid, the prize-winning Sr. Vazquez performed in impeccable English as he presented an effect in which five dice mysteriously transposed from hand to hand before assembling in a stack under a dice cup, after which he produced a glass of brandy from the dice cup. I loved his version of the Chicago Opener in which a red-backed card turns out to be the one selected by a spectator, then another card disappears from the deck and turns out to be the previously shown red card, which has undergone a transformation. Sr. Vazquez ended with his signature Card to Brandy Bottle. A card signed by three different people vanishes from the deck. Is it in the wallet which Sr. Vazquez produces? No. Maybe its in a pocket. He empties everything - money, a ten-inch long key, a slice of pizza, photos. Still no sign of the card. But wait - heres a sealed bottle of brandy and it has a card inside! He peels off the label so we can see the three signatures, and hands the sealed bottle out as a souvenir. A beautiful, funny, mysterious and very entertaining performance by a master magician.
And then, it was time for Max Maven. Maxs determinedly sardonic style has been honed by years of experience. He plays his audience like a mandolin. After flinging a particularly outrageous barb, Max might say, I enjoy seeing you begin to hate me. Then I can enjoy bringing you back. And he always brings them back.
Max Maven began by having a spectator name any card. Then, with the faces of the fanned cards facing him, he runs his fingers over the cards and the spectator calls stop. She has stopped at the freely named card, naturally. A spectator shuffles the deck, peeks at one card, the spectator again shuffles and Max cuts small piles from the deck until another spectator calls stop. Right at the selection. Standing behind a seated spectator, Max takes a red-backed card and inserts it into a blue-backed deck, then reaches his arms over her shoulders and holds the spread face up in front of the spectators eyes. He asks her to select any card she sees. It is the single red-backed card.
Calling two spectators up on stage, Max talks about the three levels of imagining an object the generalization, the specific, and the embellishment of the specific. Each spectator silently chooses a different item from a list of eight shown to him. Max reads embellished descriptions of eight items and names the objects being only imagined by the spectators. Max closed with his blindfold act. Half dollars are taped over his eyes and he is blindfolded. Two assisting women take items from their purses and Max describes them a pen, a drivers license. Then Max reads the serial number off a bill taken from the spectators purse. A woman does a simple drawing and Max takes great pains to ensure that we know that the back of the cardboard is facing him at all times, even though he is blindfolded. Max duplicates the drawing.
Aside from the mysteries involved, aside from the high-spirited and intelligent humor (Max invoked the name of physicist Wolfgang Pauli in one bit of especially cerebral banter), aside from all of that, what we are looking at is a fully developed character, one whose appearance, voice, manner and knowledge are memorable and one whom wed like to know a bit better. This is the real secret of Max Maven. (His alter ego Phil Goldstein devises real good card tricks!)
As I mentioned, Max drew quite a few magicians to the show, which is usually made up of what we call laypeople. I was honored to sit next to Herb and Phyllis Zarrow as well as the new co-owner of Tannens Magic Shop, Stephen Brown. In front of me was Joe Silkie. David Silly Billy Kaye was there as well as several of the MNM producers, including Frank Brents, Michael Chaut and Todd Robbins and about a dozen other magicians I knew. It was a night to remember.
In future weeks, Monday Night Magic, which is now in the beautiful McGinn/Cazale Theatre located at 2162 Broadway (at W. 76th Street), above the Promenade Theatre, will feature Rocco, John Lenahan (of the London Monday Night Magic), Jeff Moche and Chris Capehart among others. You can get more information at www.MondayNightMagic.com or by calling the 24 Hour Hotline, (212) 615-6432.