Four-Handed Illusions Romances an Intimate Audience with Inclusive Magic (5 stars)
by Johnny Monsarrat
Boston has only two regular magic shows, and Joel Acevedo and Steve Kradolfer star in them both. Joel is an MIT engineer of Puerto Rican heritage whose been a 'Professor of Magic' in Spain. Steve's clients include The Red Sox and David Copperfield, and was a founding producer of The Mystery Lounge, the weekly magic show at The Comedy Studio above The Hong Kong in Harvard Square, which I reviewed last month.
When I was a child, my father took me to Disneyland and said we could go to The Magic Castle, the restricted club for magicians where the best of the best perform. Then I was traumatically disappointed to learn that it was closed to children. We didn't go and I never tried to return.
For the last almost three years, Joel and Steve have brought that club style to Boston. Their show is set in the library room at the Hampshire House, an upscale club with dark wood paneling and bookshelves, where you are asked to dress in cocktail attire to attend. Even though the books were clearly chosen for their look rather than their contents, it's an effect that works. You feel part of a secret society, and the audience of only 40 people is small enough that each member of the audience can engage with the magicians while they perform. About half of us got called up as volunteers to directly participate, and the last trick involved us all (from out seats). Alcohol is served, with a reception beforehand and intermission in the middle of the show, and the venue is sadly also for adults only, but it's a genuine Event with a capital 'E'. Mostly groups kept to themselves instead of mingling with strangers.
Although you will see some illusions you have seen before, others are novel. I have to admit that I cheated a bit as an audience member. Instead of making eye contact, or looking where I was directed to look, I spent the entire show watching their hands like a hawk and saw nothing. Their sleight-of-hand is that good. Several times that I involuntarily gasped and silently berated myself for missing whatever switcheroo had happened. Everyone has to blink sometimes. It's only human.
After the show and people were filing out, I also cheated by surreptitiously picking a prop they had left lying around that I was certain was gimmicked in some way. It was not. I'm pretty sure these guys have hollow hands or maybe a third arm or something. Or it's all done with mirrors and lasers.
Throughout the show, which is substantial, Joel and Steve speak directly in plain language without pretension. Their acts are tailored to welcome you to the inner circle. It's as though Joel and Steve are friends showing off, instead of taking on the "powerful" and more distant persona that some magicians put on.
The show is laugh out loud hilarious, with both staged and improvisational humor especially from Joel, and the two performers play off of each other but also perform solo, giving each other a break and time to prepare. Afterwards they met and took photos with the audience.
In our media era, we have access to every magician in the world through YouTube. But there's nothing quite like seeing it live and up close especially in this inclusive way. I got a chance to speak with Joel and Steve after the show.
Events INSIDER: How do you describe your show?
Steve: There's nothing like this in Boston right now. There's nowhere to go see an intimate, old school, interactive magic show such as this, in a venue like this.
Events INSIDER: And you keep the audience small.
Joel: It's small by design. The experience would be much different if it were in a big theatre. You are just feet apart from the spectators. The idea is people are participators, they are collaborators. They define what happens in the plot.
Steve: In one way or another, everybody helps.
Events INSIDER: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Joel: I've had teachers, mentors both in Puerto Rico and Spain. One is Juan Tamariz [ of the Escuela de Magia ("School of Magic") in Spain ], one of the masters of our art. I got to take classes in his school, spend some time with him, and now I'm actually teaching in his school. I go there every summer.
Joel: Of course, what we're doing here, our kind of magic, is like that. It's very up close, sleight of hand, can be done surrounded, very intimate, very close to people.
Steve: There are few magic acts that can work in this type of venue, this close, and almost surrounded, and still flourish and thrive. I tend to learn my craft from a collection of very old books of conjuring, studying the masters through the printed page.
Events INSIDER: Have you got a trick that you're working on, that people should look forward to?
Steve: Yes, it's constantly involving. There's a piano in the corner of the room that will be a feature part of future shows.
Joel: I'll give you a little preview. It's one of our four-handed pieces, the show is called Four-Handed Illusions because we are two magicians, but we also do things together, four-handed. This is a four-handed piece that involves the piano, Steve here, telepathy with Steve, and spectators from the audience.
Events INSIDER: Thank you.
Four-Handed Illusions performs once a month, at two times on the same day, with the next show June 5, 2016. I am glad to give it five stars! See www.fourhandedillusions.com.