TRICKS by David Ben and Patrick Watson, directed by Watson, performed by Ben. Presented by Magicana at Artword (75 Portland). Runs to January 2, Tuesday-Saturday 7:30 pm, matinees Saturday 2 pm, Sunday 1 and 4 pm, special holiday schedule begins December 21. $40-$45, late New Year's Eve $75, some discounts. 416-872-1111. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
David Ben is experienced at pulling the wool over people's eyes, and they're delighted that he is. In his latest magic show, Tricks, co-written with director Patrick Watson , Ben spends an evening hoodwinking his fully collaborating audience, whose members are worked into the fabric of most of the show's numbers as assistants and sometimes budding magicians themselves.
I've rarely seen kids in an audience so excited before the show starts, and most of them couldn't raise their hands fast enough when Ben asked for volunteers. One, after a trick involving tied hands and a samurai sword that passes bloodlessly through cords and hands, yearned out loud, "Wow - I wish I could do that."
Ben, though, is up to some of his old tricks - literally. He's used a number of them in past shows. That doesn't make them any less good, just a bit less surprising. The same is true of his patter, which is briefer this year and tends not to be very funny.
Even so, he's a skilled sleight-of-hand artist, whether with cups and balls that keep appearing and disappearing under them, solid rings that melt into one another, cards that vanish and reappear in a magician's ancient mirror, or a mini-blizzard that flurries onstage.
Some tricks, like the mind reading by Ben's aunt, go on longer than necessary, but they're the exception.
You don't have to be a mind reader to know that most of the audience is thinking, "How did he do that?" And you can't help smiling with delight at the combination of impossibility and success that is the result of his tricks, even if you've seen one of Ben's shows before.