Monday, June 09, 2008

I Know What You're Thinking

Went to see mentalist Max Maven's one-man show "Thinking in Person" Friday night at the Steve Allen Theater in East Hollywood.

Orson Welles wrote that Max Maven has "the most original mind in magic" and I have to say I agree.

The program describes Maven's talent as "using an advanced (and highly unorthodox) set of psychological principles and techniques, Max is able to discern the thoughts of total strangers. Subliminal persuasion and the power of suggestion are pushed to the limit."

I don't know if that's what was going on , or if it's simply some old-fashioned tricks, but I was left flabbergasted.

There were only about 20 of us in the audience -- Maven described it as a "petite" crowd -- and by the end of the evening pretty much everyone had been on stage or participated one way or another.

I helped out three times:

1) I timed Maven (15 seconds) as he memorized the order of a recently shuffled deck of 51 playing cards. He told a volunteer how many cards to count of the top to find her "favorite" card. (Maven wasn't holding the deck.) He also identified which card was missing and had previously been placed by a volunteer in their shirt pocket.

2) Five of us went up on stage and a volunteer demonstrated that one key opened a lock and the other four did not. The volunteer then passed a brandy snifter with the five keys and we each took one. Maven said he was going to send a telepathic message to the one of us holding the working key and we were to raise our hand when we felt we received the message. We sat there staring at each other and the rest of the audience. Finally I raised my hand. Maven asked me what it felt like when I received the message. I told him I had been confident from the start I'd get the right key. Maven invited me to the front of the stage and, sure enough, my key opened the lock.

3) Two volunteers from the audience placed fifty-cent coins on two pieces of duct tape. They criss-crossed his face so the coins fit snugly into his eye sockets. Next the covered his eyes with two more pieces of tape and, for good measure, tied a blind-fold over his eyes. Maven asked one of the volunteers if she had any paper money. She didn't and he asked her to borrow money from an audience member. I passed her a ten dollar bill I happened to have in my pocket.

Without being able to see Maven deduced a) the bill had a "new" design (OK, maybe a lucky guess because he could hear the bill was crisp; b) that it was a ten dollar bill (OK, the volunteer couldn't recognize the portrait on the bill probably eliminating the $1, $5 and probably $100) and c) proceeded to "read the mind" of the volunteer and called out the 11-digit serial number on my $10 bill. He got confused between a "6" and a "9" but explained that was his dyslexia.

Maven has a great patter and, as you can see from the picture, a perfect look for magic. He likes to quote obscure philosophers and poets and instead of pedestrian phrases like "tah dah" or "voila" he prefers to call out "shibaraku!" -- apparently a word of some importance to traditional kabuki theater.
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