magic

THE OPTICAL DELUSIONS

Performing in the Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee was a homecoming show for magician Ben Seidman and juggler Marcus Monroe, who both come from and began their best friendship in the area. And truly they received a fitting welcome home from the crowd, who filled up the entire hall and seemed to feature a lot of family and friends of the two performers. But although they had the overwhelming support of their community, they far from need it to make The Optical Delusions a success. This show positively vibrates with infectious enthusiasm- for the skillful juggling and tricky magic demonstrated, and for the best friendship of Seidman and Monroe.

The Optical Delusions experienced by the crowd in Milwaukee must have been a unique experience from the rest of the tour, because it was absolutely teeming with Milwaukee and general Midwestern humor. Seidman and Monroe were overtly delighted to be among the only people who could appreciate this content, and so even seen through the eyes of a transplant to the area, every joke hit purely on the strength of their energy.

It’s impressive that two men the same age from the same area have both done so well in the variety performance world, although in different subsets of it. Magic and juggling make sense together if you squint and don’t think too hard about it, and it helps that so many performers who do one have also tried their hand at the other. But they really do require different talents even beyond just doing them – how to present the skills, how to interact with the audience while they do, and so on. And what is startling is how very, and equally, good Seidman and Monroe are in their respective arts.

Monroe is demonstrably aware that if you can juggle you can’t just juggle, that would get boring after a while. But juggling with a few smart jokes, a lot of endearingly dumb jokes, and a solid assist of audience involvement, turns his admirable skill into a show well worth watching. Seidman is a magician who should be paid a lot more attention to on a national or even international level. His attitude and showmanship are impeccably crafted, and he has found a way to make nearly every trick in his repertoire seem brand new and completely fresh- an almost impossible feat in such an old art.

Seidman and Monroe are at their best when they’re working together, a beautiful thing to be able to say about two ‘best friends’. It’s absolutely obvious that their partnership in this show isn’t just a gimmick; they have amazing chemistry that could only come from knowing, supporting, and building each other’s acts up for years. For the beginning, end, and flashes in between throughout The Optical Delusions, the two trade banter crackling with energy and experience, and play ‘straight man’, or the other way around, to the one who’s turn it is to do his bit. The construction of the show genuinely only falters when one is left alone on the stage. This is not to say either performer could not carry a one man show- they both could, and do outside The Optical Delusions. But the energy of this particular show changes too drastically when they aren’t both contributing, and it makes for a somewhat fractured experience. Fortunately, they’re back together in peak form by the finale, and blow any memories of lagging out of the audience’s minds. 

The Optical Delusions is a delightful show where the hilarious comedy almost distracts you from how good the magic and juggling actually are (but not quite).  And as an added bonus, it’ll make you really appreciate your best friend.

 

 

More information on Ben Seidman and Marcus Monroe and their future performance dates can be found here and here.

 

MICHAEL RAJASINGAM: AN AWKWARD MAGICIAN WITH A LEMON

☆☆

As he admits in the title of his show, Michael Rajasingam is awkward in An Awkward Magician with a Lemon.  Luckily for the audience, it is a relatable, humorous type of awkwardness that adds charm to Rajasingam’s performance.  Rajasignam spends plenty of time in his show allowing this humor to take center stage.  His magic tricks are entertaining as well, although perhaps not so consistently, and he does occasionally have trouble combining the comic and magic aspects of his performance.

There are several points in the show in which Rajasingam successfully combines his magic tricks with his performance.  The recurring motif of the lemon is a fun acknowledgement of the title of his show.  In an unrelated moment, Rajasingam takes the time to tell a sweet story about his family as he performs a coin trick.  This unexpectedly heartwarming routine is a break from the overall awkward humor that nevertheless harmonizes well with the rest of the show.

Unfortunately, Rajasingam’s performance of his other tricks is not always so impressive.  There are a few times that he is noticeably distracted from the thread of his show to focus on getting a trick right.  At other times, his sleight of hand is lacking, and his props might be visible at the wrong times.  Both of these flaws simply require more practice to perfect his skills and integrate them with his performance.

The awkwardness of Rajasingam’s performance allows his relationship with his audience participants to develop a little bit more easily, as it is difficult to feel conspicuously awkward when standing on stage beside Rajasingam.  Audience participants quickly feel at ease.  Rajasingam is kind to those who he invites to join him, using them to demonstrate his tricks while still ensuring that they get to see the full extent of the magic.

While Rajasingam’s performance is not perfect, he is dependably entertaining and fun to watch.  He uses his awkwardness as a character quirk rather than allowing it to hinder his performance.  Rajasingam’s mistakes are only momentary, the overall effect of his show is delightful.

 

 

More information on Michael Rajasingam and his performance dates can be found here

DINO DORADO: EXPERIENCE

Dino Dorado welcomes his audience to Experience himself and his mind reading tricks in this show.  Incredibly enough he is even performing in his non-native language—Dorado is Austrian but his English is strong enough for an entire mind reading show.  This is extraordinary enough from a monolingual English perspective.  Dorado’s mind reading itself, however, is patchy.  He has difficulty recovering from a rough start, although he does, in the end, get himself back on track.

The rough patch hit Dorado at the very start of his show.  Dorado mis-read his participants’ minds on his first few attempted effects.  This is understandable, mistakes do happen.  Magicians are people too.  However, as a performer Dorado could have dealt with the situation a bit better.  He was visibly dispirited at each miscalculation, and seemed to lose a bit more of his performance persona at every misstep.  Dorado would have been better off keeping his performance energy high and keeping the audience engaged in watching him.

That being said, Dorado’s mind reading skills picked up as the show went on.  His spirits and energy picked up in direct correlation as his effects began to have more successful results.  By the time he managed to correctly determine two pieces of meaningful information thought up by two different participants, he had fully regained his enthusiastic energy and the audience’s wonder.  His early errors did have the beneficial side effect of making his later successes appear that little bit more impressive in contrast.

Once Dorado had gotten his mind reading back on track, his exuberant stage presence was able to shine.  All of Dorado’s audience participants—although perhaps especially his later participants, who he was better able to read—were made to feel welcome on his stage.  Dorado likes to get physically close with his participants of all genders, but his mannerisms make this playful and nonthreatening.

Dorado’s show was a mixed Experience on the evening that it was reviewed.  He could not consistently back up his requests for applause from the audience with solid magic, or even consistent showmanship.  However, if the latter half of his show is any indication, he does have the potential for a much better performance.

 

More information on Dino Dorado and his performance dates can be found here

HOME

Geoff Sobelle’s Home defies categorization—it makes such excellent use of a variety of performance art genres and influences to make its point. Most interesting, and perhaps most relevant to this review site, is the evident magical influences. Many of the most obviously magical effects are used to add charming moments of humor, and even beyond these it makes original use of magic tropes. Any plot to Home is more of a suggestion or theme than a storyline, as its purpose does not seem to be to tell a traditional story, but to convey a feeling of Home-ness to the audience.

The motif of disappearing and reappearing dominates the first section of Home. This appears as a sort of larger scale of a magician’s sleight of hand. Instead of playing cards disappearing, reappearing, or suddenly changing identity, it is the human actors doing those things. This illustrates a central message of Home, that while a house might stand for generations, the people who would call it a home are in comparison constantly changing.

A second main segment of Home is instead monopolized by that classic component of magic shows, random audience member participation. The audience members who are brought up on stage are well taken care of. The nature of the performance allows the actors to give the participants instructions without distracting the rest of the audience from the show. By the end of this scene there are so many members of the audience up on stage, and the participation has extended so far into the seated masses, that it is as if Sobelle has welcomed the entire audience into his house party.

It is worth mentioning the primary set piece used in the production. Home is a multifaceted piece of performance art, and a key aspect of that is the house that the majority of the action is set within. It is an incredibly elegant and precise construction. The house set is so perfectly suited for the choreography of the performance, it is clearly a very well thought through design.

If the goal of Home is to convey a sense of Home-ness to the audience, it has succeeded in this impeccably. Its whimsical reflections on the nature of what makes a house a home are always captivating and, by the end, ultimately heartwarming.

 

Home can be found at King’s Theatre during the 2018 Edinburgh International Festival from August 25-26

PAUL REGAN: ILLUSIONS OF DEPRESSION

Dangerous situations are relatively common in certain types of magic performances.  Usually, the magician at least tries to find the right balance to ensure that the audience does not feel too uncomfortable or worried about them.  In Illusions of Depression, Paul Regan consciously blasts right past those boundaries.  He does not do this solely for the shock value, but uses the discomfort that he creates to make his points about society as a whole and societal views of mental health specifically.  Regan starts his show with a trigger warning that is perhaps worth publicizing to those considering attending Illusions of Depression, that it does discuss themes of mental illness, self-harm, and suicide.*

Regan starts out relatively gently, performing his creative take on a classic dangerous magic trick.  He uses that trick and his enhancement of it to lead into his discussion of a bit of basic social psychology.  This is by no means an exhaustive lecture on the topic that he brings up, but he does present an admirably balanced view given the inherent time constraints of his show.  His performance becomes both more dangerous and more personal as it progresses.  He continues in his examination of societal issues, but also talks at greater length about his personal mental health struggles.

That being said, he has a few lovely moments.  An early sleight of hand trick becomes a charming analysis of the importance of interpersonal connections, and equally the importance of accepting that varying degrees of individual differences mean that some might stand out from a crowd more than others.  This is a delightful demonstration of Regan’s fantastic fusion of magic with the stories that he tells. Regan is also caring in his interactions with his audience—which is perhaps especially appropriate given his theme of mental health.  He generally requests volunteers, especially for the more involved participant roles.  Regan has an especially touching bit with one participant toward the end, using mind reading tropes in an especially conscientious manner.

There are a few issues in Regan’s sleight of hand work, with the odd prop noticeable at the wrong time.  This is occasionally briefly distracting, but his performance is multifaceted enough to cover for any such errors.

In Illusions of Depression, Regan uses magic effectively to make his case about mental health.  His dangerous stunts do often go further than is really necessary to convey this case to his audience.  The audience gets the impression that, to a certain extent, this excessive danger is included in the show for Regan’s benefit rather than their own.  If that is truly the case then I genuinely hope that Regan gets what he is looking for out of his run at the Fringe.

 

* Note: Paul Regan’s flyers do include a trigger warning.

Paul Regan can be found at Tolbooth Market during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 19:15 from August 24-25

More information on Paul Regan and his performance dates can be found here

GRIFFIN AND JONES: TRICKORICE ALLSORTS

Trickorice Allsorts is a delightfully punny show title, which is appropriate as magicians Griffin and Jones are like the human embodiments of a pun.  Their wacky slapdash style is perfectly coordinated and precisely executed.  The chaos that is ever present throughout the show may appear, at times, to be genuinely beyond their control, but by the end of the performance the audience is convinced that Griffin and Jones have always been in command of everything that happens on their stage.

The magic tricks that Griffin and Jones perform are not necessarily original in their fundamental structure, but the trappings that they dress them in express their characteristic style at every opportunity.  From the clown-like opening silent sequence featuring a newspaper to their tombola-themed memento recovery trick, their performance is consistently unpredictable in its silliness.  The magic itself is performed accurately as well, and many reveals provoke involuntary exclamations of astonishment from the audience.  The triumph of their tricks is perhaps even more impressive as it is presented against a background of apparent pandemonium.

Griffin and Jones can only pull off this wacky style so well as it is paired with such precisely executed tricks, but these factors are brought together so successfully because of their energy and chemistry.  The show that was reviewed ended up having a relatively small audience, but this had no apparent impact on the larger than life comedy that Griffin and Jones brought to the performance.  They bring this energy to their interactions with their audience participants as well.  If they do tease on occasion, it is gentle enough that it only serves to make their participants feel welcome in temporarily joining them on stage. It is also so lovely to watch Griffin and Jones bolster and bounce off of each other with such genuine support.  The audience gets the impression that that real trust between the two is the true foundation for their success on stage.

Griffin and Jones are fantastically ridiculous performers as well as skilled magicians.  Trickorice Allsorts is, as suggested both by the pun and by Griffin and Jones themselves, a bit of a mixed bag of random magic tricks.  However, in quality, style, and sheer concentrated silliness, Trickorice Allsorts is consistently remarkable.

 

Griffin and Jones can be found at Liquid Rooms Annexe (Venue 276) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 19:50 from August 23-26

More information on Griffin and Jones and their performance dates can be found here

CHARLIE CAPER – ARTIFICE INTELLIGENCE

Charlie Caper calls himself a magician, but Artifice Intelligence is less of a magic show and more an excuse for Caper to demonstrate a variety of robots and other machines that he has clearly spent a lot of time building.  It is easy to see why, as they are incredible.  Artifice Intelligence loses nothing from this focus, as Caper creates a compelling storyline out of his creations.

The magic that Caper does perform often makes use of the robots. It does, at times, almost become a commentary on that stale magical trope of the beautiful assistant, and her relationship with the magician who she assists.  The robots steal the show.  A particular highlight is the butter robot, which conveys an astonishing breadth of emotion for what appears to be one of the more simple of Caper’s machines.

When Caper attempts more traditional magic tricks they do at times go awry.  Cards and bottles might appear out of turn, and, at the performance reviewed, cups of liquid that were being used as props spilled all over the floor and Caper’s clothing.  This is written in an ambiguous fashion because Caper performed through these potential mishaps so impeccably that it is difficult to know whether they were genuine mistakes or calculated aspects of his performance, designed to appear to go wrong for effect.  If they were honest mistakes it is perhaps even more impressive that Caper managed to play them off so efficiently.

The plot that Caper weaves through Artifice Intelligence is present enough to create dramatic tension, but not so prioritized that it dominates the show.  Its foreshadowing and ultimately darkly satisfying conclusion bind the show together.  It is charming that after the story has run its course, Caper takes advantage of his stage to deliver a message of hope about the future of technology in society.  This does not come across as part of his act, but as genuine social commentary from a man who has evidently spent a large portion of his life fascinated by machines.

Artifice Intelligence blurs the boundary of what can be decidedly defined as magic.  It also defies age boundaries, as it is both child friendly and engaging for all age ranges.  What Caper has done is use both the magic of magicians and the “magic” of technology to build an unambiguously exceptional show.

 

Charlie Caper can be found at Liquid Rooms Annexe (Venue 276) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 16:05 from August 21, 23-26

More information on Charlie Caper and his performance dates can be found here