This will, thanks to the wonder of magic, be a short article. To write too much about Asi Wind’s Inner Circle (presented by David Blaine; Gym at Judson, to Dec. 31) would mean spoiling it, or revealing too much. This is a show of magic tricks after all, played, as its title suggests, to an audience of just under 100 people in an intimate space specially designed by Adam Blumenthal within a much larger theater.
Wind sits at the center of a circular table, audience members occupying the other chairs. Then there are four tiers of seats with the rest of the audience rising in front of him, watching down from above. At the beginning we are asked to put our names and initials on playing cards (blank on one side), and that’s all this reviewer will say. From our names, Wind performs a set of ever more astonishing tricks.
Identity and the power of names give the show its meaning. The audience is immediately involved because one’s name could be mentioned by him or chosen by another audience member. As Wind says in the program, “You could be next!... People respond to their names. Names are powerful; think about how much your name means to you.” (His own birth surname is different to the one he has now, he says, and yes he has heard the name you see here said in many odd ways.)
Wind says he was inspired to create this intimate space after an intimate and impromptu magic show by his mentor Juan Tamariz. He wanted to give the audience the same feeling he had that night, and named the show for such mentors, who are “the reason I can do what I do. Everything I know as a magician is thanks to them, my magic family. Their generosity made me the magician I am.”
The salt-and-pepper haired Wind is handsome, charismatic, mischievous, and very funny—but not cruel. The audience is tasked with doing things (including shuffling and cutting decks of cards), and that allows for some physical comedy as Wind cheekily befuddles them and us as he builds the tricks in front of our eyes. Look around this small space, and you will see everyone like you craning and looking forward. Very quickly, we are entranced and amazed, trying to spot the joins.
Wind is also a storyteller, and so—without adding padding to this fast-paced performance—we hear of him coming from Israel to live in New York, and how, with not much at all, he first did magic in Washington Square Park, just a hop and a skip from the venue we are sitting in. He is open with the audience about his craft in a way that is beguiling and non-patronizing, telling us that magic tricks are really about causing “trouble,” by which he means the tricks we are watching could be much shorter, but the delight of them—as with any short story or set-piece—is in the construction and telling; the sketching of a beginning, middle, and end that requires all our attention.
It is making a trick as elaborate as possible—drawing it out, asking us to do things, building one revelation on top of another—that increases our surprise and awe. The climax of this show will remind you of the climax of any narrative, or fireworks display—and Wind, lucky for us, has an innate desire to top whatever sleight of hand he has just done.
There is a moment in the show before we reach that big finish when Wind talks engagingly of his magician heroes, including Tamariz, Chan Canasta, and Harry Houdini, who, Wind says, would have fooled an audience into thinking he was still on stage when really he’d been backstage having a leisurely coffee for a few minutes. It was from Houdini that Wind learned the importance of creating drama. This show has that and, as its title suggests, you really do feel part of the “inner circle” because Wind not only involves us in the show’s making—he also engages us in his business and practice of magic.
Magicians don’t do magic, Wind says, they “can only create the illusion of magic—but we can only do it for an audience that wants to see magic. They are a necessary ingredient to complete the circle of what we create.” Wind’s job, he says, is to lead an audience “as close as possible to seeing it, and then you take the final step to complete my work as a magician.”
That is very generous of him. This reporter, seemingly just like everybody else in our audience, had no idea how Wind did what he did right in front of us. But alongside amazing us, he conveyed in simple but deeply felt ways magic’s history, practice, joy, and meaning to him. Wind makes an audience feel like an integral part of his passion, rather than just along for the thrill ride he pilots so expertly. That sense of inclusiveness, that shared passion, feels pretty magical too.