THE CONJUROR by David Ben and Patrick Watson, directed by Watson, performed by Ben. Presented by Magic Too Good to Miss at the Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles West). Runs to January 5, Wednesday-Sunday 7:30 pm, matinees Tuesday-Wednesday 1 pm, Saturday-Sunday 2 pm. $25-$55. 416-872-1111. Rating: NN
david ben's magical touch these days is flickering rather than sure. As The Conjuror, he returns with a magic act that features a few new numbers and several repeats, but earlier efforts have been more impressive.Again the show is set in the framework of an early-20th-century music hall, a gimmick that suited previous venues much more than its current lecture hall/theatre home, even though the intimate Isabel Bader invites a close relation between performer and viewer. Despite references to Freud, Conan Doyle, Kipling and Houdini, Ben's unable to invoke much of a period flavour here.
His patter has become wan and half-hearted and has lost most of its charm. There's more appeal in William Schmuck's two sets, resembling a kind of coloured Edward Gorey backdrop dominated by red devils with glow-in-the-dark eyes.
Several of the magician's acts (he derides the word tricks) still fascinate. Appearing and disappearing eggs and oranges, levitation of several sorts and a game of hide-and-seek with an animated handkerchief can draw "how did he do that?" chuckles. His best support, though, comes not from the spirit world but from lighting designer Bonnie Beecher, who provides the appropriate mood and whose illumination complements Ben's sleight-of-hand talents. firstname.lastname@example.org