Magician Kevin Blake dazzles with one-man show ‘Magic Man’ at The Speakeasy

A man holds up a yellow paper with a question mark.
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Kevin Blake, a magician and illusionist based in San Francisco, isn’t afraid to reveal some trade secrets. Blake’s one-man show at The Speakeasy in San Francisco, titled “Magic Man,” is rife with pseudomiracles, yet Blake calls it “more of a magical show” than a magic show — a distinction that becomes more and more apparent as the show progresses.

Early in his act, Blake explains a classic magic trick using a color cube: an audience member picks a color on the cube, places it into a (seemingly) opaque box with a lid and hands it to the magician. The magician then miraculously guesses what color the audience member picked or, as Blake explains, they pop off the lid and view the color outside of the audience’s view.

Disappointing, right? Blake’s version isn’t. He has the audience member pick the color on the cube while they’re out of his view, sans box, and hold the cube in their hands for the entirety of the trick. He then guesses the color just by looking at their face. Which he did correctly last Sunday — four times.

The performance blends a few disparate elements, including Blake’s personal musings on how the inside knowledge that comes with being a magician can ruin magic for those who love it most, bursts of stand-up comedy and the traditional magic tricks that audiences might expect. It’s an eclectic blend, but there’s never a dull moment, and audiences are sure to leave “Magic Man” impressed (even as they’re actively encouraged not to take the magical antics at face value).

It would be a disservice to list the varying tricks here — after all, magic depends on a lack of transparency. In broad strokes, though, they include the iBooks app, Blake risking slamming his hand down onto a sharp nail, a paper airplane and a deck of cards. Most of these tricks center around Blake’s role as a mentalist or his ability to “read the minds” of his audience and guess what they’ll say before they say it.

This angle understandably offers ample opportunity for audience participation and Blake’s rapport with his spectators is one of the best features of his act. Almost every trick involves an audience volunteer and Blake’s responses to audience interjections were some of the funniest and most spontaneous moments of the night.

Blake sails through his act with his irreverent stage persona and an effortless sense of charm, keeping the audience laughing in between their shock and awe at his magical feats. One imagines this is one of the things that makes a great magician — audiences must be charmed enough that they’re willing to be fooled. Needless to say, Blake fits this bill.

This is not to say that Blake nails every trick. At one point in the show, after guessing the wrong time on his wristwatch and dismissing the audience volunteer, Blake snarkily remarked to the audience: “Sometimes I’m an hour off just to show you guys I’m fallible.”

And Blake’s show, which includes a fair amount of musing about magic’s falsity, may prove that for some audiences. It seemed, at times, that Blake was testing how much the audience was willing to suspend their disbelief — the final card trick started with Blake proclaiming that he had to use a specific deck because it was shuffled in a way that only he knew.

But, judging by the audience’s response to Blake’s final, show-stopping trick, they didn’t much care that he all but told them it was fake beforehand. Turns out Blake’s not that fallible after all.

‘Magic Man’ will be running at San Francisco’s Boxcar Theatre on select dates through June 2.  

Grace Orriss covers theater. Contact her at [email protected].