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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Soho Playhouse

By David Lefkowitz

When up-close magic has to become half-distance magic, the conjuror had better step up his game, or else an appealingly low-key evening's entertainment can quickly become a tedious exercise.

Owing to a malfunctioning air-conditioner the night I attended, Sam Eaton's mentalism/card-trick show, The Quantum Eye, had to make a last-minute move from Soho Playhouse's basement cabaret space to the roomier, more traditional theater on its main floor. While this no doubt accounted for some technical glitches - including two bursts of squalling feedback that forced Eaton briefly to leave the stage and perform from the center aisle - other aspects of the show ought to be amplified if Eye wants to make a quantum leap to the entertainment level of a Marc Salem or Ricky Jay.

Actually, the short, neat, curly-haired Eaton most recalls Bob Saget (of the squeaky-clean &quotHome Videos" years), only turned down a few notches, even when miked. Eaton's persona is so unassuming, audience volunteers end up getting the biggest laughs. That's not a bad thing per se, but a magic show that moves in fits and starts from an occasional chuckle to an underwhelming &quotreveal" has some work to do. (At the very least, he might get bigger magic markers, so that when volunteers draw their pictures, people past the fifth row can see them.)

It doesn't help that Quantum Eye covers pretty much the same ground as performances by the aforementioned Salem and Jay. There's the bit where volunteers pick out random phrases in a book that later turn up on a banner, and the one where a folded-up playing card is the same Queen of Hearts an audience member had mentally pictured ten minutes earlier. Familiar but workable stuff, and probably charming in a cozier setting. The only trick new to me, and a pretty impressive one at that, involves splitting a shuffled deck of cards between two volunteers, and Eaton guessing who has which cards. Very cool.

Our host should also be commended for doing this stuff sans hokum and blarney. The card trick doesn't lose anything by Eaton telling us he does it through memorizing and grouping the suits mentally. There is, after all, a certain magic to any notable skill. But theater magic requires showmanship, and if Eaton hopes to pull a hit out of a hat, he'd best turn up the heat and make it more of a hoot.


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