Magic as Medium is a breezy 45-minute showcase by magician Siegfried Tieber, who previously made a name for himself in Los Angeles with his close-up show See/Saw. He frequently performs at the Magic Castle, and is one of a small group of magicians who “fooled” the legendary Penn & Teller on their show Fool Us.
Given his impressive credentials, this Hollywood Fringe performance (which is currently sold out) feels like a sort of workshop, taking place in the black box Underground Annex and devoid of even the smallest of frills. Magic as Medium is but a man and his suitcase. The show is as traditional as it gets, mostly consisting of card and coin tricks, performed to an audience of about thirty. This is a non-immersive, seated theatrical performance, but one which requires a number of audience volunteers to assist in the magic.
Within seconds, Tieber’s charisma fills the room, and the audience is drawn in by his distinct physical features and mannerisms. His big eyes and infectious smile instantly create a cheerful, friendly atmosphere. It is easy to become fixated on his especially long fingers, which often provide enough of a distraction to execute the sleight-of-hand that comprises the vast majority of the show. His natural energy, combined with his charming Ecuadorian accent, makes Tieber a highly memorable character in this year’s Fringe line-up.
His writing, too, is mostly excellent. The show mainly explores the idea of chance, communicated through numbers and statistics about the universe. We live in a world of infinite choices, but must ultimately choose one. Sometimes, as is often the case in Magic as Medium, those choices are unconsciously forced upon us. The facts and ideas Tieber includes in his monologues are genuinely surprising and interesting, and succeed in sparking the imagination.
The magic itself, while wonderfully executed and crowd-pleasing, suffers from a few overarching problems. Though the central theme of probability and chance ties the show together nicely, it also results in much of the show feeling like a series of variations on the same trick, perhaps even the same technique. An early trick involving a coin flip returns later in the show; the second time, we are already aware of Tieber’s abilities and the rest of the segment falls flat. A similar thing happens with playing cards – once we know that Tieber can put cards in any order (though we certainly don’t know how), later variations lose a bit of momentum.
Still, a few tricks, especially one involving a Rubik’s cube, manage to be at once original, impressive, and fun. Magic is at its best when there seems to be only one possible explanation, but that explanation seems, well, impossible. Tieber expertly creates this effect at several points in the show.
Tieber’s personality and sleight-of-hand skill make Magic as Medium an upbeat, classic magic show that’s sure to please most casual magic fans. With a bit more variety, this Fringe performance would certainly be worthy of a more expensive ticket at one of L.A.’s larger magic venues. Tieber alluded to a larger project later this year – one hopes this material can be further developed and taken to a more unexpected place.
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