by: Alix Cohen
Nelson Lugo’s appealing Gathering the Magic intersperses adept “tricks” with stories about his own personal cultivation of the art. (“Penn Jillette -of Penn and Teller- says a “trick” is magic with emotional content.”) Vaudeville placards start with For the Love of Blackstone (Harry Blackstone, Jr. stage and television magician and author), progress to such as The Magic of Catholicism and end with The Last Trick. Though specific close-up and mentalist presentation is unrelated to narrative, the two flow seamlessly.
Lugo begins with rope manipulations to the strains of Edith Piaf’s “Parlez-Moi D’Amour.” A length of red rope is cut into two, rejoins halves, becomes a ring, unknots itself…”I’ve spent the last 15 years mastering what was essentially 3 minutes of your life. Every cell in your body has long since died and been replaced…I invite you to suspend the question of “how” and hope you’ll leave here asking something different.”
Like many magicians, this one got the bug at the ripe age of 9; like many he was painfully shy. “All my friends played super heroes. I wanted to be Commissioner Gordon” (Batman’s ally). We hear about the excitement of his first magic kit, performing in front of family, then parochial school –at which an innocent gaffe almost gets him expelled, his love of comics-well integrated into a trick, science versus mysticism-during which he reduces a girlfriend to tears, and his Catholic/Santerian grandmother’s remarkable spells. Lugo is a fine raconteur and eminently likeable.
Between these, he almost reveals the secret of a ruse- accurately sharing methodology to the last, identifies or duplicates that which is hidden, and executes an anti-card illusion. Adhering to the formula of any experienced magician, some single tricks are played out through the course of the show. Audience volunteers have a good time.
Lots of fairly skilled artists perform these same basic tricks. What differentiates one show from another is framing/ patter and the performer. Lugo’s offering is charming and entertaining. Don’t go if you need to see an elephant to disappear (David Copperfield) or six radically different liquids poured from the same teapot (Steve Cohen). Do go if you’d enjoy an evening of affordable, low key theater replete with magic tricks. I left smiling.
Director Paige Blansfield has done an excellent job with both storytelling and magic. The small stage is well used. Audience is not just genially addressed, but drawn in. Tales are told with excellent pacing and focus; humor emerges deftly.
Lugo is preceded by a rotation of opening acts. Tonight’s is skinny, white, bespectacled rapper, Schaffer The Darklord. While I admit to not being a fan of the genre, STD, as he alternately refers to himself, writes succinctly, moves with staccato commitment, and performs to recorded music/sound effects which are effectively assembled. Lyrics are youthful, repetitive and raunchy.
The Tank is a not for profit, volunteer organization presenting comedy, dance, film, music, theater, storytelling, and literature. Their extremely varied program can be found at the web site.
Gathering the Magic
Written and Performed by Nelson Lugo
Additional Material by Richard Lovejoy
Magic Consulting by Richard “Glenn” Laufenburger
Directed by Paige Blansfield
Opening Act: Rapper, Schaffer The Darklord
The Tank (Theater) 151 West 46th St. 8th floor
Additional performances: www.thetanknyc.org 212 563 6269