Opened Nov. 17, 1997, at the Westside Theater/Downstairs. Reviewed Nov. 16; 250 seats; $ 40 top. Running time: 1 HOUR, 25 MIN.
Mark Salem’s display of mind control casts a mesmerizing hold on his audience , but what’s even more persuasive is his talented trickery. The entertainer has revived the long lost art of mental magic, a skill that owes a great deal to conversational confusion and sleight of hand.
“Mind Games” sets its mood with ominous organ music, Salem making a modest entrance from behind a hypnotically spinning disc. He then devotes the early part of the program to mathematical puzzles: With several numbers selected by members of the audience, his addition always comes up — across, down and diagonally — with the same total.
Assuring the audience that there are no planted confederates, Salem manages to produce some startling stunts. With a few chosen guests onstage he manages to change the time on their wristwatches and identifies the serial number of a hundred-dollar bill in the wallet of a participating doctor.
Bald, bearded and dressed in black, Salem casts the unassuming presence of a math teacher. There is little theatrical flair here. He plays off his audience well, and the glibly targeted puns and quips provide a breezy and swift tempo, even if he often can’t remember the names of audience participants.