Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Max Maven is More than Magic

I hate magic - specifically because it is not magic and can be rationally explained. Of course, the explanation completely eludes me. That's why I hate it. So if you're anything like me, you're going to hate Max Maven : Thinking in Person. Worse yet, his show at the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex is not slight of hand but slight of mind. And I'm not entirely certain this mind reading gig superimposed on a magic act can be explained rationally.  Hey, now we're talking.

Max Maven emerged out of the darkness in confinement of the show's first spotlight. "Once upon a time, he began, "what a clever little Iambic Pentameter."

This set the tone for his unique delivery. A mathematical interpretation of creativity was the manner in which much of his dialogue proceeded. Adding an analytic degree of encryption to the mystery, the  dialogue maybe offered some explanation in the off-chance something extrasensory wasn't in play.

On the record, Maven chalks his presentation up to metaphysics mixed in with subliminal persuasion and the power of suggestion. In turn, the claim is he can pick up on discernible cues to read the thoughts of total strangers.

I'm not buying it. No explanation, this isn't magic.  I could tell because I didn't hate it. Not even trying to figure it out, I loved it!

Nonetheless, Max came into the light and expropriated a quarter from an audience member.  He spun it, and before it stopped, placed the piece under a paper cup. He then locked it under a transparent cube and claimed the quarter landed tails up.

A 50-50 shot at getting it right, he conceded that predicting the outcome came without much risk. The audience seemingly in agreement, he relented, "We'll build it up as we go."

Moving on, I'll only completely spoil his first offering, while you can definitely be assured his powers escalate in geometric astonishment.

Presenting a deck of cards, Max picked Charlotte out of the first row and asked her to think of a card in the sleeve of 52. She settled on the queen of Hearts.  "Passion and Power," he quipped. "You've told us more than we wanted to know."

Max fanned out the deck in right hand and instructed her to stop his motion when she felt so inspired. Quarter way through, she gave the verbal cue and Max pulled the card.  On the turn, the queen of love was revealed.

But before the audience could confront him with the obvious, Max addressed it by way of a gentleman to the left.  "I haven't shown you the rest of the cards," he posed. "They all must be queen of hearts."

"You are so smart but how did I know she would pick the queen of hearts." Making it a rhetorical jest, Max poked fun back at himself. "Not such a practical skill," he agreed.

The same might be said for the warehouse of useless information he's acquired in the field of...everything.  "Wizard is an alphabetically symmetrical world. 'W' and 'D' are forth from the beginning and end of the alphabet, 'I' and 'R' fall ninth in similar fashion and 'A' and 'Z' are first and last. And what's most interesting," he said in passing on any discussion of word origins, "is that someone even noticed."

Intrinsic value or not, it was well worth the laugh before he came back to the quarter and the easy odds he faced. "50%, how compelling is that," he asked.

Referencing Frank R. Stockton, he hoped this most famous even odds choice would give a little edge to the drama. "Lady or the Tiger," he needled the audience. "I guess not."

Ziegfeld or Roy, he queried to a silence. "Hmmm - Too soon," he deferred to audience's amusement.

Thus, putting the questionably elevated anticipation off a little longer, he enlisted a somewhat reluctant participant to the stage. "Don't worry, I don't bite...on stage," he reassured her.

Somewhat questionable was Jamie's card playing acumen.  Flashing her the two of spades to identify, he cautioned, "You know my career depends on this."

Apparently succumbing to the pressure, she mixed clubs for spades. "My life is passing before my eyes," he joked.

And when Jamie presented the card he called later in the trick with the face away from the audience, Max did not disappear as the scene obviously diverted from the script. "What's wrong with this picture Jamie," he said in seamlessly working the moment.

In the second act, Max gave the audience a better sense of his metaphysical act by changing into an outfit that aligned more closely with the discipline's home office, while not completely giving all props to the East. "The shirt is from Singapore, the tie is from China and the pants are from...upstate New York, he perfectly timed the beat.

The stage and segue set, Max really got outer worldly on us. He coaxed five more audience members into awaiting chairs and informed them that one of them would be compelled to rise and deliver the answer he sought. "This is my favorite part of the show," he revealed, but the power of persuasion secure on Max's side was not necessarily immediate.

Once in Toronto, he said during the delay, "We were waiting until dawn."

Well before then, but with the audience sufficiently compelled themselves, a young woman finally provided the crescendo. "You looked like you were fidgeting on a hot plate," he poked at her.

However, the audience did not cool as his final trick took place as two Kennedy half dollars were duct taped over his eyes. Assuring the audience that no homing devices were implanted into the copper/silver composites, he duplicated the drawing an audience member provided in his temporary blindness.

In that, Max disappeared into the darkness and left the audience in a state of astonishment.

So much so, that when he quickly returned to finish what he started with the quarter, the audience had  completely forgotten the buildup and then were ready to give him the benefit of the doubt – if necessary.

Audience reengaged, he unlocked the cube, put his hands to the cup and....

Sorry, you have to see this for yourself.

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