There are several nice things I could say about Mr. Jay. Here is the nicest: I spent a little over an hour in his company and I never noticed his hands. Mr. Jay does have hands, two of them, each with the average number of fingers. (One of those hands, briefly mangled in a boating accident, has since recovered.) But his sleights were accomplished so casually and expertly and with such cheerful misdirection that the hands themselves — what Mr. Jay calls “the secret ballet of fingers” — never caught the eye.
“Six Impossible Things,” directed by Luke Jermay, is billed as an immersive magic show and there’s some publicity claptrap about how each guest will “be admitted JUST ONCE.” Really, it’s only a touch more participatory than a typical parlor or close-up show. Most of the tricks are slight though clever variations on the usual card and coin and rope routines. A couple are perfectly possible. But Mr. Jay’s affect is so friendly, his crowd work so gentle and his outfit so seemingly devoid of pockets that it does feel intimate.
Paradoxically, disenchantment flickered only during the coziest moment (O.K., that moment and also the bedsheet bit), a one-on-one performance in which he’d promised to deliver the “perfect illusion” that exists for each of us. Mine was a harmless bit of shadow puppetry, some low-key telekinesis that was over in an instant. Maybe if I sneak back in, we can try again.
If “Six Impossible Things” feels like an indie band’s secret show, “Vitaly: An Evening of Wonders” feels more like classic rock for the cruise-ship set. Mr. Beckman also suffers from a misguided Playbill photo, part come hither, part leaf blower. But when he opens his mouth — after a wordless trick involving a bowl of apples that vibrates when he nears, much like a fruit-based theremin — he is toothy and jokey, charisma-proof, but somehow likable. “I sound like Borat and I look like Seinfeld,” is how he puts it.
He likes to inhabit a place “where imagination meets reality,” he said, but often it feels more like a place where off-strip Vegas meets past-sell-by standup. His actual place: The Westside Theater, a chutzpah-ish two blocks from the “Harry Potter” crew. At a Saturday show, patter was straight-up terrible, with gags about controlling wives, doctors’ handwriting and van Gogh’s ear. (Those bits are co-credited to Doug Bennett. Accio script doctor!) If several of the tricks feel original, nearly all of them feel hokey.