“Seeing is believing.”
And its opposite: “I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
Illusionists depend on an audience’s ability to be in both states at once, illusionists like The Spencers, a husband-and-wife duo who offered up a pleasant, if not startling, afternoon of magic on Sunday at Proctors Mainstage.
There was a good-sized crowd, some of whom, like Nathan, Jimmy, Adrianna, Dick, and Mark, got to participate in a few of the tricks, and Kevin Spencer knew exactly how to treat his accomplices and play to the house. His timing as a comedian was as sharp as his timing as a magician. He spoke warmly (perhaps a tad too sentimentally) about his origins in the business, his tours, and his relationship with Cindy, and that sentimentality was underscored with treacly music. But he was, finally, so amiable that you were simply charmed.
It was a popcorn-eating audience of adults and children, yours truly included, and if the Spencers did a public service with their 90-minute entertainment, it was to tickle the fancy of some kid who may already be home practicing the most rudimentary card trick or Kevin’s amusing silk scarf deception in hopes of having a career in hoodwinking.
I liked a number of acts, including the two that had the lovely Cindy beside herself. I never understood how a woman could be cut in half, but for my money, that’s exactly what happened to her!
I also fell for the ripped up Sunday edition of the first section of The Gazette (sorry, boss!), the ESP game, and the walking through a cinderblock wall. Always the showman, Kevin anticipated our every question about how the trick was done without ever denying that a trick was involved. Chutzpah!
However, the show suffered from three miscalculations: the first was the opening of Act II, wherein Kevin reproduced, albeit amusingly, sleights-of-hand from his childhood. But the bit seemed like a filler. The trick with the cities did not belong in a show of this caliber and cost. Any ninth-grade math student could tell you that no magic is involved, only calculations. And, finally, the last routine was a disappointment. Kevin attempted to replicate the Houdini milk-can immersion escape trick, but when he disappeared behind a black curtain to extricate himself from chains, locks, and gallons of water, it was less about escaping and more about deceiving. Just who might have been behind that curtain with him, was my question.
In one of his speeches, Kevin noted that “magicians allow an audience to wonder at the world.” In their best moments, The Spencers had me scratching my head, too.