Scott Silven (Photo courtesy of Scott Silven.)
Having spent the majority of my adult life living in New York City, I can unequivocally say that I don’t like to be tricked. I still fume over the Fifth Avenue swindler who convinced me that he needed $20 to transport costumes uptown for a film shoot he was working on. It was only after I got to my destination to meet up with friends that one of them smirked and said, “Oh, that dude’s been pulling that scam for a decade.”
While that late-night rouse from years gone by was one of deception for self-gain, illusionist-mentalist-performance artist Scott Silven uses his powers of persuasion to send a message of connectivity, implying that our collective subconscious deeply ties us to one another beyond the details of our everyday circumstances.
His newest show Wonders at Dusk takes over the McKittrick Hotel’s Club Car: a swanky, dimly lit performance space with café tables, a sprawling bar, leather banquettes, and a hazy fog that wafts through the air to catch the moody lighting and soundtrack that frame various slights of hand. It’s been nearly eight years since Sleep No More, an immersive reimagining on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, opened at The McKittrick, and the multi-venue space continues to attract a trendy crowd to its line-up of smart, genre-pushing programming. Mr. Silven’s At The Illusionist’s Table also plays a return engagement through January 3, in which audiences ooh and ahh throughout an evening of “fine dining and whisky tasting interwoven with illusion, mentalism and storytelling.”
Mr. Silven, dressed in a well-tailored suit and sporting a mop of heavily coifed hair with bangs that whisped in front of his twinkling eyes like mitter curtains from a professional carwash, laid the groundwork for the evening with a monologue about his childhood wonders, celestial dreams, and hopes for world travel. His thin voice didn’t travel much further than the front row of Insta-worthy opening night attendees, but the crowd got the general gist of things, and he appeared to loosen up as the evening got underway.
Tricks of mind and eye ensued. None too flashy, but instead with a sense of “how’d he do that?” wonder that the show’s title suggests. Mr. Silven accurately recited thematic words that the audience had written down, then planted seeds for illusions that would happen by evening’s end. At one point, he unrolled a massive world map, which we tore into hundreds of pieces at his request and threw back to the stage. Calling up an audience member, one of those jagged pieces astonishingly revealed a recent vacation destination. A randomly chosen number and a series of blindfolded drawings also connected various touch points throughout the evening.
I noticed two camps among the audience at show’s end: those with furrowed brows struggling to analytically make sense of it all, and those — like myself — perfectly happy to believe, at least at dusk, in magic. I guess after all these years, I’m still trickable after all.
Wonders at Dusk
The Club Car at The McKittrick Hotel
542 West 27th Street, NYC
Through January 5
Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor and chief critic. Read more of his work at wexlerwrites.com.