When it comes to touring magic shows, big rooms are the name of the game. Whether it’s David Blaine sewing his mouth shut at Smart Financial Centre, Penn & Teller breaking the magician’s code at Jones Hall, or The Illusionists bringing a Broadway-sized spectacle to town, odds are if you’re paying to see magic in Houston, it’s in a large hall. This makes sense of course, because these acts either have large followings or perform illusions so big that there’s no room for intimacy.
But big stage shows are only one aspect of magic, and if your interests in those arts trend toward mentalism and close up magic, you don’t get a ton of chances to see the greats in those particular realms here in Space City. But one, rather unexpected, venue has been bringing in magicians for performances that are much different than the average stage spectacular; iPic, over in the River Oaks District, has gotten into the magic game.
This week, magician and cardist Franco Pascali returns to Houston, having already performed at iPic earlier this year. At 20 years old, Pascali is already a wonder in the realm of magic. He’s one of those performers who gets invited to show his skills at The Magic Castle, one of the most important stages in the world of magic. He’s also the Director of Magic for theory11, a company that’s worked with the likes of Kanye West and the Now You See Me films on magic projects.
While iPic is more suited for movie magic, it does a pretty good job of hosting in person magic too. For one, the seats are more comfortable than any you’ll come across at the bigger halls, and the food options are better as well; if you’ve ever caught a movie at iPic, you know that even when a movie is bad, at least the experience of seeing it is pretty solid. For a movie theater, their rooms are not particularly large, which makes them uniquely suited for in-house performances.
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The setup for Pascali’s performance wasn’t particularly fancy, some lights set up around the theater and a simple black stage set up at the front. That was fine, because the work that Pascali does doesn’t need much in the way of added production; other than using the movie screen behind him in a pair of particularly clever ways, Pascali was content to show off effects that focused less on props and more on his ability to manipulate the audience’s responses.
The effects themselves aren’t necessarily groundbreaking, especially if you’re the type of person whose YouTube recommendations are packed with magic videos, but he pulls them off well. He’s got an interesting sort of charisma, one that seems him supremely confident in his abilities as an artist but also like he’s also trying to convince the audience that he’s as good as he knows he is. It works, but it takes a trick or two to really get into the groove of the performance.
It was enough to convince me that iPic is a pretty viable alternative for performances of all sorts in their theaters, and to hope that they continue their experiment with touring magicians. Far as I could tell, the sightlines were good across the board and the setup of the theater itself—this is a theater built to bring food to guests, so there’s more walking space between rows than you’d get at a typical movie house—made it easy for Pascali to walk the crowd and include more audience members into the performance. All in all, a pretty solid night out in a venue that hadn’t been on my radar before but definitely will be going forward.
Franco Pascali performs at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Wednesday June 6 and Thursday June 7 at iPic Theaters, 4444 Westheimer. For more information, visit ipicmagic.com/mindcontrol/. $75-$100.