Reviewed by Terry Morgan
Civic Center Studios
Through October 8
Theatre is an inherently magical experience. When done correctly, a stage, a set and some actors become a world. The audience offers up its suspension of disbelief, and art is created. The question is: Is a magic show inherently theatrical? In the talented hands of close-up card magic virtuoso Siegfried Tieber, the answer to that question is yes. His new show in downtown L.A., See/Saw, is astonishing in its display of his talent and ingenuity.
Tieber prefers to describe what he does as sharing “tiny little mysteries,” reveling in the bond created between performer and audience as indelible moments are realized. His rapport with the audience is friendly and casual, but the potency of his mysteries is not. In a sequence devoted to gambling, he not only demonstrates how a card mechanic can demolish a game of poker — he also produces a hand one is unlikely to see in one’s lifetime. His trick, wherein a card placed in the middle of a deck rises instantly to the top, produces audible gasps and admiring profanity from amazed onlookers.
Perhaps his most impressive feats involve the audience handling the deck for him, while he, not even touching the cards, still influences the turn of events. A bit where he uses a diminutive toy car as his assistant is very cute, yet finally still wondrous. Tieber is a lively and amusing performer, and his interaction with the audience for questions and answers is both informative and funny, with topics that range from how a cardsharp would fare in a modern casino to the ruinous results of telling the curious how a particular trick is done.
Artistic director Jon Armstrong has conceived and staged the show like a particularly terrific night at one of the intimate performance spaces at the Magic Castle. Angie Lister’s set is spare yet stylish, and features interesting magical memorabilia placed around the room, from a floating light bulb to the “FU” award Tieber recently won for “fooling” Penn & Teller on their TV show, Penn & Teller: Fool Us.
For those who want to catch an artist at the top of his game, See/Saw is literally a marvelous must-see.
Civic Center Studios, 207 South Broadway, Los Angeles; Thurs.- Sun., 7 p.m.; Fri., 10 p.m.; Sat., 4 p.m.; thru Oct. 8. atlasobscura.com/seesaw; Running time: 1 hour and 35 with no minutes.