Theatre Review by Matthew Murray
I stared at the spoon I’d been handed. Its neck had been twisted 180 degrees, allowing me to simultaneously see the inside of the bowl and the back of the handle. Many people sitting in a theater, watching the twisting process from a safe distance, would likely be excited or highly skeptical about what happened. But I was simply shocked: I’d been holding the spoon during the twisting, and I’ll go to my grave insisting that no one else touched it.
This is how I was thrust into the world of the Mentalizer, aka Ehud Segev the mentalist, during his new show Anomal. I’d steeled myself beforehand to believe that this was sheerly an evening of parlor tricks, and that everything I’d experience would have a rational explanation. But seeing that spoon, twisted like taffy and still bearing the Sharpie-inscribed signatures of its audience-member examiners, made my reason dissolve.
How did the mentalist Segev undo my critical faculties as easily as he twisted the spoon’s neck? I don’t know; I don’t want to know. All that matters is that when he’s bending and snapping silverware, guessing cards, or reading audience members’ minds, mentalist Segev puts on a heck of a show. And if that’s all there were to Anomal, there’d be no good reason for anyone interested in such things to not dash to the American Theatre of Actors with all the cutlery they could spare.
When playing himself, whether at his current age (26) backstage or on a series of TV talk shows, or as a young boy trying to live up to his father’s expectations in his homeland of Israel, the mentalist Segev never displays the charisma he does when interacting with the real audience in real time.
Yet when he returns to his stage persona, he’s never less than a consummate, polished showman who doesn’t need to hide behind anything to wow a crowd. Clad entirely in elegant black, he cuts a suave figure, looking as though he’d have no trouble charming his way into any of Manhattan’s hippest nightspots; his stealthy, mock-mysterious manner, coupled with his mischievous on-demand grin, aid him in being as personally disarming as his tricks are amazing. He can even sell jokes so ancient they probably date to Biblical times (“What is your name?” “Suzanne.” “Correct.”) with such smoothness that you can only marvel at the magic at work.
A director (Glory Bowen) is credited in the program, but this natural ease can’t be directed or taught; some things are just innate, and Anomal is invariably at its best when the mentalist Segev capitalizes on it. The point of the show is to demonstrate how mentalist Segev came to be more comfortable with himself in a world in which he initially didn’t fit. But, at least as presented here, the destination at which he’s already arrived is far more interesting than the journey.
And it’s darn tough to get enough of the mentalist Segev’s tricks; even if you’ve seen some (or all) of them before, he’s engaging enough to make them newly invigorating. If you’ve never seen someone feel someone else’s face being touched, or have a song in one woman’s mind come out of another piano player’s fingers, you’ll take away a ton of entertaining memories. And, yes, you might even leave with a spoon.