Dallas — On the night of Friday, Feb. 2, the Deep Ellum Art Company in Dallas hosted a unique night of hybrid entertainment called Jokes and Mirrors—half standup comedy, half magic show, with both halves showcasing several performers.
First, a word about the space. It was a revelation. Tucked into the deepest parts of Deep Ellum on Commerce, the venue lived up to its name with irresistible pop art on every wall, including one wall covered by projected simple but hypnotic geometric animations.
With so many theaters (in the Metroplex and beyond) cramped and suffocating, the Deep Ellum Art Company is a spacious joint in terms of both the seating area and the big, deep stage.
My favorite part would be the outdoor back area, which was essentially a large backyard with more art, more chairs, and more lounge areas, and games like bean bags and (free) foosball, among others. It was nice seeing these offerings outside of a sports bar or frat boy-intensive locale.
The comics went first, and they were all solid, steady, and delivered consistent laughs. The best lines came from local Josh Johnson, and the most polish and best delivery belonged to the headliner from San Antonio, Larry Garza.
When the standup portion of the night concluded, the magic happened. Most importantly, all the tricks went off without a hitch, which were duly impressive and often mind-boggling.
I also gained a new sympathy for magicians. Their acts relied heavily on audience volunteers, many of whom had been drinking and could’ve easily been distracting, disruptive or derailing (though none were).
Consider the hecklers that standups face. All right-minded beings utterly loathe hecklers for the self-aggrandizing narcissists they are, but in most cases, the comedian can plow through their act regardless. Not so for the magician, who literally depends on cooperation for the volunteer for their tricks to work.
That said, the magic portion was not a complete success, because most of the magicians lacked a certain panache and stage presence.
Magic, when done right, is indeed magical. It intoxicates the audience into suspending disbelief. Good magicians don’t just manipulate cards and props, but audiences. This can be done with a compelling narrative or at least a distinctive attitude. I’m not saying magicians need to return to white gloves, top hats, and capes, but there is a reason magicians used to wear those things.
That derring-do and flair was largely absent from the night’s magicians. Their collective demeanor was relatively reserved, pitched more like you might see at a party where a random reveler says, “Want to see a trick?” and shows the onlookers something that makes them respond, “Oh, neat!” before returning to their drinks and conversations. Take us for a ride, guys.
One exception was a magician called “Vegas,” who showcased a certain nerdy charm and built a rapport with the audience.
So to him, whose real name is Blake Dvorak, I say this: You got talent and moxie, kid. Now pick a stage name that doesn’t make you impossible to Google.