Last Night, Monday June 16th, 2003. My last Monday in New York City Im retiring to my home in upstate New York to devote my time to magic. So what better way to spend that last evening than at Monday Night Magic, New Yorks longest running magic show, now in its sixth year, with a new show and new performers every week.
Monday Night Magic recently moved back to Greenwich Village, to the SoHo Playhouse at 15 Van Dam Street, around the corner from the famous Film Forum theatre, and the space has a traditional proscenium stage, great lights and sound, and a capacity of about 250 seats, every one of which was filled. Jamy Ian Swiss was the MC with headliner Simon Lovell, supported by R. J. Lewis, balloon man John Cassidy, and close-uppers Michael Chaut, David Condon and Dennis Kyriakos.
Jamy Ian Swiss, the urbane and entertaining card and coin man, who is also the proprietor of the Card Clinic magic lecture series and is book reviewer for Genii magazine (where I also toil as video reviewer) acted as genial host for the proceedings and along the way managed to perform some amazements, including his great opener in which a card is freely named by a spectator and, after some amusing byplay and a gag, the named card is found sealed in an envelope in a wallet. Jamy also performed his exquisite Fingertip Coins Across and his very clever full-deck story trick, Diamond Jack.
R.J. Lewis is a dynamo of a performer, whose amusing patter is accompanied by surprising flashes of fire at his fingertips. R.J.s performance included the Linking Rings, the Professors Nightmare equal/unequal rope trick, a cut and restored rope and some card effects.
I was, to tell the truth, not looking forward to watching a set by a guy who makes balloon animals, my idea of one of Dantes inner circles of Hell, but I was astonished, amazed and amused by the extraordinary talents of John Cassidy, another human powerhouse, and the holder of the Guinness World Record for Most Balloon Sculptures Completed in One Hour, a hard to believe 494. As John puffed out his cheeks as big as Dizzy Gillespie to inflate what seemed like a hundred balloons, he mused about his weird love of rubber, his addiction to latex smells, and the pathetic life of a guy who like to inflate things. Running around like a dervish, he created magnificent balloon hats, animals and sculptures. After a playing card was chosen and lost in the deck, he inflated a six-foot weather balloon, shoved his head inside to find the card with his teeth, missed, somehow got his entire body INSIDE the weather balloon, but still couldnt find the card. Then a cannon of his own design fired one of those deadly lawn darts, it missed the target a spectator was holding, but burst the weather balloon, impaling the selection on Johns derriere.
Intermission means close-up magic at Monday Night Magic. Michael Chaut, Monday Night Magic founder and one of the five show producers, entertained in the downstairs lounge while in the theater itself Dennis Kyriakos and David Condon performed with cards. I watched David a young student of MNM regular David Oliver, and his skills were admirable as he held the audience rapt.
What can one say about headliner Simon Lovell, the British expatriate magician, that hasnt already been said by a team of psychiatrists? Simons skills and humor are legendary, and his originality makes him a performer I truly admire. His books ("Simon Says" and "Son of Simon Says") are magical best sellers and his video series is well worth watching. Simon performed his classic version of Cards Across with a female spectator emulating Arnold Schwartzenegger and the male showing some lovely ballerina steps as three cards magically and invisibly made their way from one packet to the other. Then, after penetrating his tongue with a Sharpie pen (or so it seemed before he exposed the sham), Simon found a signed selection while the deck was in his mouth, demonstrating Sleight of Tongue. The assisting spectator was rewarded with a lovely white paper rose which Simon folded from a [censored] napkin. And Simons concluding straitjacket escape, in which hand puppets make a surprise appearance so that the escape includes the previously missing elements of comedy and pathos, brought the house down. Much of Simons act consists of comedy, some of it satiric, some of it sight gags, all of it expertly timed and original and he is a treasure for us to have on these shores.
In attendance in the audience were the legendary Dorothy Dietrich, the leading female escapologist, and her husband, magician Dick Brooks. The pair were the proprietors of the Magic Towne House, in which many New York magicians cut their performing teeth, and today they are the proprietors of a Houdini museum in the Poconos. They looked great and it was a pleasure to see them there.
In upcoming weeks, Monday Night Magic will feature Rocco, Puck, Peter Kougasian, David Silly Billy Kaye, David Oliver, Chris Capeheart and others. Check out the website www.MondayNightMagic.com or call (212) 615-6432 for their Information Hotline.
It was because I was so enthusiastic about the Monday Night Magic concept that I became a (paid) regular attendee and that enthusiasm led me to begin writing reviews of the ephemeral performances, originally for the Electronic Grymoire. Those reviews led to my Video Reviewer job at Genii and, because last nights show will be my last for a while, it was an especially emotional occasion for me.
Im moving out of New York City, so I wont be there, but if youre in town I highly recommend this entertaining and amazing magic show.