I’m not a mentalist (yet?) but when I sat down at the beginning of Renz Novani’s show, I made a prediction. That prediction was that for his review I would be writing: “well, maybe Renz Novani is a good magician, but I can’t tell because I can’t see a goddamned thing except for the hair of the lady in front of me.” But like I said, I’m not a mentalist.
The room was tiny. Everyone was squashed together, and the rows of seats were only at two levels. The “stage” started right where the “audience” stopped, and it was tiny itself. But what could have been suffocating actually worked for the show.
Mr Novani’s affect was flawless for the space, and for his material. He didn’t try to be overtly theatrical, a choice that by making him seem bigger would have made the space feel even smaller. Instead, his show was like a conversation. We were visitors at Mr Novani’s, and he a kind host. And like any good host, he exuded sincerity, and seemed to connect deeply with his audience.
I’ve mentioned earlier that I as a rule don’t go onstage or interact in the acts I see. Well, I broke that rule last night. I didn’t plan on it, but the room was so small, I couldn’t exactly hide. And when I was picked, I just went with it. I was initially worried that my preexisting obsession with mentalism and fascination with the exact things he was doing would mess the show up because I was thinking so much, so I guess it’s a blessing that when I’m in front of crowds I lose the ability to think. I won’t go into too much detail about the trick itself, but all I can say is that I was amazed by his talent. At so many points I was tiny slivers of a whim away from making wholly different choices, and yet the trick worked- the prediction that Mr Novani had secured, earlier, with another audience member, was right. Because of choices that I made and numbers that the audience picked.This ability wasn’t limited to but one trick, either. He again and again left members of the audience dumbfounded with his mentalist ability and readings of their deepest wishes.
He genuinely had astonishing talent, and at the same time expertly presented his material in a manner that made a grim little room cozy and captivating. Combined with a brilliant finish, Mr Novani’s show really does leave you feeling weightless.
Renz Novani’s Fringe show is at Spotlights at Merchants Hall, at 8:40 pm until August 25th.
+Reviewer’s note: I left this show a little stunned, and not just because of residual nervous energy from being onstage. Of all the magicians that I’ve seen as of late, his particular talents were exactly everything I’ve ever wanted to study, understand, be. The beautiful mixture of clever tricks, calming but firm stage presence, and a deep understanding of and ability to work with human psychology is exactly what captivated me about this world in the first place. His ability to imbibe it with a sense of enchantment struck me on a deeply personal level. Also, I want to steal all his books.