by Alix Cohen
“The Zen master Ikkyu was once asked to write a distillation of the highest wisdom, He wrote only one word: Attention.” Jenny Offill Dept. of Speculation
This, in essence, is Kreskin’s message. He’ll remind us again and again when not relating past glories: Be aware/observant instead of living with your heads buried in electronics. Easily 1/3 of the show is comprised of talking about these two things. Add to that a bit debunking practitioners of “fake magic.” He sincerely believes most people are capable of telepathy, that his intuitive gift may be stronger, but it’s also been honed since childhood.
Everything Kreskin does starts with being alert. Even calling 4 presidential elections and a Super Bowl win was, he says, dependent of silently receiving information from audiences.
Watching the mentalist at the intimate Lion Theatre feels like sweet Uncle Harry’s performing for the family or local, longtime Shriners. The only “set” is several metal chairs, a utilitarian table and standing screen; there’s nothing evocative to frame the act. Every word of every anecdote has been related hundreds of times. (I know, I was entertained by many of them when I interviewed him. For background and career particulars, read that.Kres) Too much is about then and not now.
Kreskin is banned from Las Vegas gambling tables. The show offers card affects, i.e. he tells volunteers what they’ve selected even identifying an entire fan of the deck, what single one is missing, and cutting to a specific number. He appears to be off by one cent calling out the change in a woman’s pocket, then has another volunteer open a sealed paper left with him earlier which says “plus one cent.”
The audience is asked to picture two geometric shapes, one inside the other. About a third of us got his triangle and square. A third then “received” four numbers Kreskin wrote before the exercise. These apparently are the odds. He intuits a word secretly chosen on the page of a novel. (This I’ve seen many times.) And guesses some of what we’ve written on distributed paper squares. (This is hit or miss with people stuck holding envelopes, others never handing in their slips, and a few of those chosen turning out to be illegible.)
Curiously, our press audience was one of the slowest, least cooperative groups I’ve ever been among for this kind of show…so not entirely the performer’s fault.
The mentalist’s signature piece is being walked out of the theater by audience guards while a group of volunteers hides a promissory note for his performance fee. Kreskin swears to return the money should he be unable to find it somewhere within the theater. “In 6000 shows, I’ve only missed 10.” Our group hid the slip 12” from where they were standing so neither much cleverness exhibited nor much fun looking for it.
Holding one end of a handkerchief while the person who last touched the note holds the other, he walks around the room…eventually stopping in the area and pinpointing the check. This had a bit less impact because ¾ of the audience couldn’t see where it was hidden to begin with; nonetheless a neat talent.
Kreskin asks a every volunteer’s name 4-5 times, never retaining it. His instructions to the audience as to what we’re to imagine with eyes closed are frankly unclear. Jokes are ba-dump-dump vaudeville. He’s genial but has no flair. What works, works well. Too much doesn’t.
The Amazing Kreskin
April 12 – 28
Theatre Row – The Lion Theatre
410 West 42nd Street Between 9th and 10th Avenues