I favorably compared Steven Nicholas’ 2021 show ExperiMental to big-name Broadway illusionists, and although I didn’t find this year’s show quite as transcendent, it still provides a thrilling hour of mystifying mentalism effects. Much of the initial show takes place in near-complete darkness, creating a suitably séance-like atmosphere, and Nicholas astonishes early on by appearing to be as adept a Human Lie Detector as Natasha Lyonne’s Poker Face character. All the traditional magical trappings — sealed envelopes, covered bowls and concealed coins — are employed in his spooky set pieces, which largely rely on self-selected volunteers from the audience.
Mind Reader is more intimate and eerie than most comedy-focused magic shows, but Nicholas still exhibit flashes of sly wit while he astounds using forced selections, cold readings and automatic writing to seemingly forge connections between his subjects’ prefrontal cortices. The multilayered mental feats are consistently astounding, and the techniques are nearly flawless, but many of these marvels require such extensive time-consuming explanations to set up that their payoffs’ dramatic impacts are sometimes dulled when they finally arrive.
Nicholas is blessed with an appealingly unaffected stage persona (unlike the typical over-the-top illusionist), but to take his art to the next level, he could benefit from some more theatrical storytelling to shape his act’s emotional structure. With the aid of the right writer/director, I predict you’ll someday see Nicholas mesmerizing the Great White Way.
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