Translate “abracadabra” to Spanish and you get … “abracadabra.” Persuasive evidence that magic is a universal language.
Not that Reynold Alexander employs that hackneyed catchphrase—most magicians don’t, relegating it to the incantation of 8-year-olds wowing their parents with a card trick. However, the prestidigitator from Puerto Rico does embrace the word “magia,” which is Spanish for “magic” and the title of his limited-run show at the Clarion Hotel, through June 22. (The show was originally slated to run through July 20, but an earlier closure was announced June 19.)
As a toe-dipping excursion into the Vegas magic pool for Alexander—billed as “the greatest Latino illusionist of modern times” and an established headliner in San Juan—Magia is both low-key and low-rent, neither an asset to a genre reliant on spectacle.
Though a suave, understated charmer, Alexander is a tentative stage presence with English-speaking audiences in a way I suspect isn’t true back home with native crowds. Taking pains to explain select Spanish words he uses, his production has the faint air of a tutorial and an even stronger whiff of fish-out-of-water uncertainty. Result: While some segments among a mostly traditional lineup of illusions are genuinely entertaining, the connection between headliner and audience is weak, on the verge of disengagement.
Several elements hamper Alexander from the get-go. Opening the show, a roly-poly, Chilean comedy-magician named Hansel offers a routine that has some funny lines and shtick, but does it so gingerly as to set an underwhelming tone for Alexander. Gloomy lighting and lack of visual excitement—no shazaminess, if you will, just the basic magic props—feed a lackluster vibe. Blasts of gothic music accompanying the magic don’t make up for it, but rather accentuate what’s missing.
Only one piece of business gooses the proceedings—the repeated entrance of a frilly costumed, maracas-shaking dancer (Abel Amat) “interrupting” the show to gyrate to “Cuban Pete,” the gag being that he “failed geography class.” Funny? First, second and third time, yes. Fourth and fifth, not so much. Whether it unintentionally mocks people who don’t know one Spanish-speaking region from another depends on your sensitivity level. (After all, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory.)
Illusions? While you may be impressed—he’s an accomplished pro—you won’t be surprised, having seen most of them: using blades to disassemble and reassemble an assistant in a box; sawing someone in half, but with the nice twist of an audience member disconnected at the torso; the dancing handkerchief; card tricks; traveling scarf knots; and a little levitation.
Two standouts: drafting a boy from the crowd and turning him into a “magician,” with Alexander crouched behind him, pantomiming and orchestrating the illusions; and, for the climax, the well-known “snowstorm” bit but with sand from an hourglass, as Alexander recites a poignant soliloquy about the passage of time.
We really want to fall for Alexander—he’s a sweetly likable guy in any language—but in a way that feels engaged, rather than merely polite. Hopefully, it’s just a matter of time for him to translate the other essential from Spanish to English.
That would be teatralidad. You know it as “showmanship.”
Got an entertainment tip? Email Steve.Bornfeld@VegasSeven.com.