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Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013

Charming Guy, Tedious Magic

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Mentalist Marc Salem is performing a one-man show at the Stackner Cabaret called Mind Over Milwaukee. In this hour-and-a-half long program, Salem performs mentalist tricks involving prediction, thought, numbers, sleight of hand and the like. The stage is set like a cozy living room, complete with comfy chair, desk and bookcase. Salem is a really charming guy. He possesses that rare level of charm that makes an audience laugh even at hack-level stand-up comedy. It's the type of charisma that allows an audience to complete the illusion he's going for.

Salem's charm is good enough to carry the show entirely, which makes one wonder what kind of performance he could do if his material wasn't extremely tedious and mind-numbingly annoying. He's guessing numbers. He's got a gag with a jigsaw puzzle. There are a few other bits involving the illusion of reading people's minds. It's all pretty tiresome. It's too bad. He comes across as such an interesting guy. The mentalist gags get in the way of what could be a much more interesting one-man show. As it is, the mentalist shtick is delivered without much sense of drama. Ideally, this results in an even greater impression on the audience. By underselling the beauty of the mystery in a casual shrug, Salem attempts to make it that much more intense. This reverse psychology approach doesn't really work if you're not willing to complete the illusion as a member of the audience, though.

Mind Over Milwaukee runs through Feb. 24 at the Stackner Cabaret. For ticket reservations, call 414-224-9490.