Missed Connections is about as entertaining and intriguing a magic show as I’ve seen in some time. Jon Tai is charming, his prestidigitation contextually original, the storyline winning. Participation of a streaming audience is handily accomplished. This is a thinking man’s magician, not over our heads, inside them. If you tune in early, he’ll chat with you.
Tai begins with a story about arranging to meet a girl at a Halloween party with whom he connected on OK Cupid. It turns out the hostess had planned to set him up with the same woman. They’ve described their costumes. He sees her back across the room. “We’re all in one another’s stories. Someone somewhere has seen and noticed you wondering what it’s like to talk…”
On an ordinary day, the magician will set up in a local coffee shop – see image below. Imagine Lucy Van Pelt’s Psychiatric Help 5 cents booth from the Peanuts cartoon. Some people sit, others walk away. “Tonight we’ve all been curious enough to say hello.” Fascinated with the unresolved nature of missed connections, Tai has garnered and numbered a list of actual newspaper advertisements in which people search for strangers who attracted them, but who they were unable to approach. It’s a wonderful panoply of if/thens with descriptions of both people and what they were doing. An audience member chooses number #64. It’s read aloud so we get the feel of format. (The list as a souvenir. Entertaining reading.)
Another pick by number turns out to be a star sign looking for its mate. This advert was printed with images of star signs. Tai asks the participant to think of a sign, not her own. He takes out a Scrabble set and arbitrarily pours a group of tiles into a bag, then on the table top…several times. “Look to see whether any of these letters are in the sign you chose.” “Yes, some.” The last has many more tiles. Picking up only those tiles which are face down, Tai puts them on a rack. They spell her choice. He asks her own sign. Tiles still on the table spell that sign.
Just as the young man is about to approach the woman at the party, she disappears and he never sees her again. “Every choice we make is a walk down a single path that closes the door to all others.” The concept of multiverses i.e. parallel universes in which the choice we didn’t make exists, is raised. “All I had to do to speak to that woman is to switch to that universe.”
Andrei Linde, the Russian-American physicist now at Stanford said, “..we found that what we had called ‘the universe’ can be divided into extremely large regions, which may have different laws of physics. …The whole collection of universes, the multiverse, is incomprehensibly vast — and growing ever more so.” The subject is not confined to Science Fiction. Not only does it provide a fascinating vertebrae for this show, but it may leave you asking questions when the curtain falls.
As tempted as I am to continue the appealing narrative, I’ll just say that a hand exercise everyone does at home shifts perception, that a photograph deemed to be one thing turns out (after universe shift) to be something completely else, that a blackboard drawing morphs practically before our eyes from representation of evil to one of good. (The good and evil segment is nifty.) All this occurs as Tai tells us what happened at the party, what his lack of reflexive movement towards the girl brought about.
An audience member settles on a childhood memory he distills down to one word. Ten numbers are chosen by ten people. An unknown person outside the theater is drawn into the experiment…and, curiously, seems to be in sync.
Tai closes with a heads or tails game which leads the “winner” to choose the number of a missed connection on the list. This text, written by the magician, offers a considerable amount of surprising information about the person who chose the number. “The real magic that happened tonight is the invisible thread that connects us.”
A terrific show. Highly recommended.
Photos courtesy of the production.
59E59 (Co-Presented with Kansas City’s Oddly Correct Coffee, Chicago’s A Red Orchid Theatre, Wesley Stace’s Cabinet of Wonders)
Jon Tai- Performer/Co-Writer
Alex Gruhin- CoWriter/Director/Producer
MISSED CONNECTIONS is currently on sale with performances on Wednesdays through Sundays until May 20. Tickets are limited.