Mark Toland, the star of his one-man show Mind Reader, is currently appearing in an open run (through at least the end of October, 2018) every Wednesday at 8 p.m. at The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.
As Toland informed the audience the night this reviewer attended, “This is not mind reading, it’s all about mystery”. He exhorted us not to spoil that mystery by writing specific details about the “magical” way he got into the heads of every person in attendance. “This show is about you- you are the cast,” advised Toland, and indeed the members of the sold-out performance participated eagerly. Some people really got into it, hamming it up in efforts to trick the mentalist; he evaded all such stratagems.
With the use of an engaging, self-deprecating, timely and slightly sarcastic patter, the award-winning Toland kept us all amazed. Mind Reader did not appear to be an act consisting of a series of prestidigitation, or sleight of hand. One got the uncanny sense that he could really transmit thought. At one point, I, myself, was able to “intuit” a secret word held in the mind of the woman seated next to me, right before Toland correctly uttered it aloud. How scary is that!
For the benefit of the uninitiated, “Mentalism” is a performing art, NOT a 6th sense. Its practitioners appear to be demonstrating highly unusual intuitive capabilities, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, hypnosis and rapid mathematics. Indeed, in the past, most performers claimed to have supernatural or psychic gifts. More recently, “mentalists” have attributed their results to such skills as the ability to “read” body language or project subliminal suggestions.
However, Toland made no serious specific claims whatsoever, leaving the cast/audience to simply marvel and enjoy his prodigious skills. He does not mix standard magic with the act- he has no need for card tricks, or even “mental magic” such as transposing objects. What the star of Mind Reader accomplishes with an easel, a paperback book, a small teddybear-like version of himself and his fine abilities of distraction, misdirection, dexterity, adroitness, and “mathemagic” is nothing short of mesmerizing!
From the moment the 80-minute show commenced, Toland was in complete charge of the patrons, “transferring” information back and forth, sharply sweeping his gaze over and carefully observing the room. Throughout the performance, he kept up a good-natured teasing rap, clearly enjoying each interpersonal encounter, as people were chosen, invited to the stage, and then stunned with his peering into their carefully concealed information.
While magic shows and mentalist performers are thick on the ground just now in Chicago, Toland’s show is still fresh, clever and very well done. Anyone looking for a mind-blowing piece of entertainment this summer would do well to catch Mind Reader. Please note: there will be no performances 8/15, 8/22, 9/26 and 10/17.
For information and tickets, go to greenhousetheater website
All photos by Sarah Elizabeth Larson