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Mark Salem’s Mind Games

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.

Mark Salem's Mind Games

Opened Nov. 17, 1997, at the Westside Theater/Downstairs. 250 seats; $40 top.

Production: NEW YORK An Anita Waxman, David Richenthal, Jeffrey Ash presentation of a magic show in one act. Set, Ray Recht.

Creative: Lighting, Chris Dallos; sound, Raymond Schilke. Reviewed Nov. 16; Running time: 1 HOUR, 25 MIN.

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