Vincent Gambini’s meta-show about magic, The Chore of Enchantment, encapsulates the pessimism of 2016. It is especially fantastic for those who still haven’t quite gotten over the ridiculous politics of that year. Most of The Chore of Enchantment is less magic and more Gambini’s stand-up comedy style routine about his disillusionment with both magic and the real world, with bits and pieces of tricks used to enhance his monologue and illustrate his descent into melancholy.
Gambini creates a sense of unease from the start as he steps on to the stage in a sleep mask, and describes the room, the audience, and himself as figments of his dream. While the big illusions that he describes do not manifest—no floating yoda or hole in the fabric of reality appear on the stage—the card tricks that do are still enjoyable, and create a bridge between Gambini’s mind and reality.
Equally atmospheric are the smaller bits of magic that Gambini performs as he gets into the politics of his show. Gambini makes coins and balls disappear and reappear as he talks about the repetitiveness of performing magic, and brings magic back to the forefront of the narrative when he makes a staff appear with a loud snap. He does occasionally run the gag for a little bit too long, but this feels like part of the show, as it periodically transitions the audience from awe to near-apathy with each new effect.
Gambini’s interactions with his audience are charming. He does not use a lot of participants, due to the relative scarcity of magic in his show, but he reacts remarkably well to their mistakes and interruptions, seamlessly working them in to his performance.
By its nature, The Chore of Enchantment does occasionally feel a little bit pretentious in its exaggerated self-consciousness. Gambini pokes fun at his past career in conventional magic as inadequate given the current state of the world, while performing what is, at its heart, a magic show in his own attempt to come to terms with those real issues. In spite of its stated conclusions that magic is simply another distraction, the effectiveness of The Chore of Enchantment is evidence in support of magic’s usefulness as a tool for performers to address real world issues.
In The Chore of Enchantment, Gambini balances entertaining his audience with inspiring them to think, both about the real world and the nature of entertainment. His comedy still feels timely two years after the events that he discusses, and his minimalist magic augments his words and astonishes his audience.