Astonishing- as·ton·ish·ing extremely surprising or impressive; amazing
I’m a magic FAN. For many years, I’ve tried to see anyone of note. Asi Wind, who by the way is being produced by David Blaine (celebrated illusionist, endurance artist, and extreme performer), was recommended to me by another gimlet-eyed magician. Reputation in the field proceeds him.
The new space at Judson Church was built FOR this show/close-up magic. It consists of four tiers of comfortable seating in a semi-circle around a table at which there are an additional 12 seats and the magician himself. In other words, this is an intimate experience. When motion might be construed as obscured, a hidden camera enlarges and projects Wind’s movements on the table top.
As we enter, everyone is asked to write their name and initials on a blank-faced playing card in either red or black marker. These are the tools of Wind’s trade tonight. Even when a volunteer only sees the patterned back, the host never says choose a card, but rather choose a name. It’s a neat way of personalizing the experience. Both audience members at the table and others from the theater at large are asked to volunteer. Sometimes there are hands on cards, at others card picking or placement is called out or people are asked to concentrate on a name.
Cards are shuffled by multiple recruits. The man at Wind’s left, Jay, I think, is asked to choose one. It turns out to bear his own name. “I’m trying to create an illusion of randomness,” the magician says testily. The stack is again repeatedly shuffled. Another card is chosen. Again, it’s the one that bears the volunteer’s name. Delight ensues. Our host puts his wallet on the table and leaves it there.
The next effect involves one woman’s choice of a card put back in the “deck,” a man’s cutting of the cards, and they’re being fanned out. Four are then chosen by a third person, three eliminated. Participation is shared. When revealed, the last card is not the woman’s choice but rather, for the third time, that of Jay. Surprise! And the woman’s selection? Sealed in an envelope in Wind’s wallet which hasn’t been touched or moved from its place on the table top!
Asi Wind is personable, warm, droll, and stylish. He deftly jokes with conscripts. The evening generates respect on both sides. “…we can’t actually do magic, we only create the illusion of magic – but we can only do it for an audience that wants to see magic…”(Asi Wind) One has the feeling of being included in a select community. We’re there to be fooled as originally and cleverly as possible. When the host alludes to trying to get someone to stop him, Jay reflexively slaps the magician’s hand away. When Wind dedicates an effect to someone named Ronald, the audience member quips, “It better be good.”
I’ve seen some illusions dozens and dozens of times. What makes an “effect” distinctive may be props (a disappeared ring found in a box in the lobby or cut out of an untouched orange) or it may be framing. This includes patter. Some prestidigitators refer to their own lives or those of famous practitioners. Lately successful shows may be theatrical, philosophical or themed.
Rather good paintings line the narrow hallway as we file in. Wind is the artist. The individuals are his magic heroes. At one point, he projects three (dead and alive) successively on the table top and tells us what he learned from each. There’s a book here somewhere. The magician is thoughtful and articulate. He even shares a few methods utilized to influence an audience. Undisclosed techniques are part of what makes him good, but I tell you from experience, what’s shared will not diminish wonder when the moment arrives.
Cards/names are submerged only to reappear where unexpected. When the reveal doesn’t seem to reflect a choice, Wind shows us a way that in fact, it does. A stranger from the street provides one aspect of an effect. (A volunteer is asked to go out and solicit their choice.) Cards are -reconfigured. “No way,” someone at the table mutters just loud enough to hear. Counting and spelling come into methodology.
This is a wonderful evening of magic/sleight of hand. Not since Ricky Jay have cards been activated in such distinctive fashion. Even those who feel jaded, and certainly those who think of the art as rabbits and saws will be fascinated and entertained. Tickets are expensive, though no more than Broadway theater, but the experience is markedly skillful and uncommon, a treat. Good spirits abound.
Asi Wind’s Inner Circle
Production Design – Adam Blumenthal
Magic/Script Consultant – John Lovick
The Gym at Judson
243 Thompson Street
Photos courtesy of the production.