Intimate Illusions with Ivan Amodei is Original, High Energy, Crowd Pleasing Magic (4 stars)

Boston is lucky this week to host magician Ivan Amodei (EE-von ah-MOE-day), who performs regularly in Beverly Hills but has been touring the United States. Notably he appeared on Penn & Teller Fool Us and fooled the magic duo with a trick that they could not figure out how it was done.

His show is festive and full of energy, with entertaining crowd work that kept us laughing and involved the entire audience and many volunteers. The illusions were mainly ones I had not seen before, my favorite being swallowing pins into his stomach and then forcing them back out.

The show is made unique by the accompaniment of a concert cellist, whom I believe this time was Irina Chirkova, although Amodei works with others. The live music heightened the suspense with better intimacy than recorded music, and to prove they aren’t snobs, the cello was also used for humor in many points, for example with a downturning wah, wah, wah to emphasize a (planned and soon to be overturned) hiccup in the show. Ivan told several self-deprecating jokes and included the audience, the magician as a friend and not a god. So it was a great success in being ‘Intimate’ Illusions, the title of his show. He only plugged his book once, in a classy and brief way. That book is Magic’s Most Amazing Stories, a collection of anecdotes from famous magicians about a time performing on stage when something went wrong or unexpected.

While the audience seemed thrilled throughout, the show was not completely without flaw. Unfortunately, the lighting was terrible, blinding Ivan at times and at other times being too dark or too bright, although I’m sure this varies from venue to venue. Boston is a tough comedy scene, because Bostonians are stoic people (when we haven’t been drinking) and sometimes we’re too smart for our own good, seeing a joke coming. Ivan called out the crowd at times when we failed to laugh out loud, instead of rolling with our lack of expression. He also made several references to traditional gender roles, something that, even turned on its head as a compliment to women — the wife thinks about shopping, but the husband’s brain is completely empty, or if the wife wants to go to Paris, then her husband is damn well going to Paris — is outdated in progressive Boston.

The show had a good length, more than 90 minutes, and was entertaining throughout, but was not densely packed with tricks. Each cabaret type illusion took a good 10 minutes, a “long con”, with a lot of build up to a single reveal. Most of the tricks were predictions, for example, Ivan asking an audience member for their spouse’s name and then revealing it on a covered chalkboard. Greater variety would have been preferable, with tricks showing manual dexterity or a grand spectacle (though understandably, one does not want to lug a shark cage and water tank on a nationwide tour). I hate to say it, but I couldn’t help but notice that half the tricks had a not-too-hard-to-guess gimmick, which to me deflated the long build ups at times. If your [ omitted ] has a hidden [ omitted ], or is secretly [ omitted ] out of sight, that’s cool, but don’t base 10 minutes of your show on it.

I’m on the fence. Entertaining, musical, original, and with great crowdwork, Ivan Amodei and his cellist deserve 4.5 stars. But the show is priced like a world-class act, and they do not quite seem to be there yet. I’ll give Intimate Illusions 4 stars but feel it has great future potential.