When I first heard about “Mind, Magic & Madness,” the magic/mentalist show held in Strong Auditorium on Sept. 16, I was sure I was in for an evening of lame magic tricks and mind reading la “Crossing Over with John Edward.” As the lights dimmed and clips from appearances on “The Tonight Show” and “Rosie O’Donnell” played, I felt like they were building up a show that was sure to be a letdown.

The show, featuring Jim Karol and sidekicks Chris Chelko and Michael DuBois, got off to a slow start. Chelko’s opening routine began with the lame jokes I expected, but it took an unexpected turn as he demonstrated his unusual ability to feed a balloon through his nose and out through his mouth. DuBois followed with a juggling routine that was entertaining, but didn’t really blow me away.

It was clear that these guys had talent – it’s not as if I can juggle seven balls at once or pull foreign objects from my nose through my mouth – but I just wasn’t impressed.

I found myself wondering how long the show would last and if I could survive another hour of mediocrity. Then, all of a sudden, my eyes were glued to the stage as Chelko performed a card trick that ended with the two of clubs, selected from a deck of cards by an audience member, stuck to the ceiling. He also pointed out the ace of spades on the ceiling from last year’s show. Anyone who hadn’t been paying attention before, certainly was now as the “Madman of Magic” himself, Jim Karol, took the stage.

Karol’s set included more card tricks, illusions, stunts and a display of his psychic abilities. Going into the show, I was very doubtful about Karol’s actual ability to read minds. The only “proof” I could find was an article in the National Enquirer about his prediction of the Pennsylvania Lottery in 1991. The fact that his story was in the Enquirer didn’t exactly give him much credibility in my eyes.

Karol’s performance, however, stunned me as he demonstrated that he could do more than just guess someone’s favorite color.

As each audience member asked himself a random question and its answer, Karol revealed the names of countries, birthdays and even family nicknames that they were thinking.

Karol claimed not to read minds, but only to “influence thought.” Whatever he calls it, I was definitely impressed.

The tricks were not only amazing, but Karol, DuBois and Chelko’s skills as performers and entertainers also played a huge role in the overall quality of the show. The three magicians put on a fast-paced, high-energy performance in which they interacted well with each other as well as with the audience. They were even kind enough to offer a behind the scenes workshop and reveal some of their secrets in the May Room in Wilson Commons following the show.

While I was skeptical at first, it didn’t take long for the Psychic Madman to win me over. I found myself completely engrossed in a performance of mind-boggling tricks, stunts and mind reading. I definitely recommend going to see Karol and company if they return to UR to entertain, impress and perhaps add another playing card to the ceiling of Strong Auditorium.

Swain can be reached at eswain@campustimes.org.

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