312.mediumIn the middle of my Thursday evening came the zest, precision, and wit of “An Alien of Extraordinary Ability.” Magicians who comment on their craft as part of their banter are not uncommon, but Simon Coronel is unusually detailed and resourceful in playing with an audience’s investment in the illusionist’s art.

Not only did the Australian handle audience participation enticingly and with an astonishing wealth of trickery, he toyed with our notions of magic and our willingness to be controlled at the same time we are trying to puzzle everything out. He doesn’t prey upon our gullibility, but upon our good sense. Coronel rightly pointed out that it’s neither rational nor creepy for an audience to think actual magic is happening onstage. It’s rather that “you know it’s not real, and that’s what’s creepy.”

His hands and fingers exhibited the loose-jointed independence and control of a concert pianist’s. The card tricks mounted in complexity as he invited the audience to know exactly what he was up to. But of course we nvever did. What he got out of an empty Pringle’s can, even one that had been for several minutes in the hand of an audience volunteer, was nothing short of amazing.

“An Alien of Extraordinary Ability,” which the magician said was the exact phrase that has enabled him to work in America, is thus a show title that carries a U.S. government endorsement. So, taking a leaf from the “So Proudly We Hailed” book, I’ll say you owe it to your country to catch Coronel’s act


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