BRATTLEBORO — People loved to be fooled.
So thinks magician Chris Lengyel, who has made a career of deceiving his audiences.
“Magic is the one art where people will pay money to get lied to,” Lengyel says. “Even if they know that what they are seeing in a magic act are just tricks, they still watch entranced. Perhaps they want to figure out how it's done, or else they like to see appearances played around with. People are attracted to thinking that they don't know the full story and what on the surface seems impossible is possible.”
Lengyel believes he knows why magic is so popular these days.
“With the world the way it is, people don't want to understand reality,” he explains. “They want to be amazed.”
Lengyel is convinced that people come to his shows to forget life's harsh problems.
“Here, they never know what to expect,” he says. “My goal is to make them happy and forget their problems, if only for the moment they are in the audience. I try to make them leave the show feeling good. If they have had a good time, I consider I have done my job.”
On Saturday, July 21, at 7 p.m., Lengyel is bringing his newest magic show, “Nothing up my Sleeves,” to the Hooker-Dunham Theater & Gallery, 139 Main Street. Tickets are $20 and available at the door.
“Nothing up my Sleeves” is an “all ages, interactive, comedy magic/illusion show that features everything from small intimate magic, to mentalism and storytelling, all the way up to bigger, scaled illusions,” Lengyel writes at his Facebook page, Chris Lengyel Magic.
“There is a very wide variety of things in this show,” Lengyel told The Commons. “The only thing I don't do is saw someone in half, and I'll be doing that soon enough - that is when I can talk someone into being my assistant for that trick.”
Lengyel contends that his new show contains a little bit of everything. “I have a few tricks no one else does,” he says. “In fact, I have developed two new routines just for this tour.”
Lengyel is kicking off his tour for “Nothing up my Sleeves” in Brattleboro, but it is almost by accident that he is appearing here at all.
“I was taking a road trip with my fiancée, my mom and my daughter, to visit the Yankee Candle Factory [in South Deerfield, Mass.],” he explains. “It was around 5:30 in the evening as we were leaving, when I decided to go to Vermont and find some maple syrup.
“When I was trying to get back to the highway, I stumbled onto Brattleboro. I discovered there was a small theater downtown that might be ideal for one of my shows. When I got home I called the theater and booked it. Later, I came back and walked around town and found out that it was a really delightful place.”
Lengyel calls himself a “one-of-a-kind magician/illusionist,” and he has performed up and down the East Coast. He has been featured on national television, has performed for numerous celebrities, and has also been featured on his own internet television show, “Don't Blink.”
“I am able to hold a crowd, whether it's 10 people or 1,000,” Lengyel says. Although there are many people who perform magic nowadays, Lengyel claims that he has “a stage persona like none other.”
“I have the ability to make you forget about the real world for a few minutes,” he says.
Born in Connecticut where he still makes his home, Lengyel, who has overcome ulcerative colitis, a disease that nearly killed him, has been performing magic professionally for 11 years.
“I began my career in magic the way many magicians do,” he says. “I started with simple card tricks when I was in school. I was bullied at school, so I found my defense through magic.”
Lengyel claims that although his first forays into magic were pretty lame, “I kept on with my magic and got better and better,” he says. “Soon I was giving shows at libraries, nursing homes, and schools. In those days, I was charging only $20 for a birthday party. I quickly realized that if I wanted to make this career work for me professionally I needed to get my act together.”
Lengyel took magic lessons for one year, but mostly he considers himself self-taught.
“You can learn magic through reading books,” he says. “When you buy a trick, it usually comes with a DVD that explains how it's done.”
Lengyel and his audiences share the knowledge that everything he does is just illusion.
“I teach my audience my first trick in my show,” he says. “I tell the story how the trick is done. I tell a lot of personal stories in the shows. In fact, I have a story for almost all my tricks. I give the audiences some insight behind what they are about to see performed, whether it is funny or true.”
Lengyel says that being a magician is part of a long tradition.
“The art of magic has been around for thousands of years,” he says. “The oldest magic trick was carved onto a pyramid wall, depicting the shell game. Was this magic act developed for the delights of pharaohs and so was carved into stone? Indeed, magic has entertained kings and queens. It is a kind of music that is visual.
“Whether people are willing to admit it or not, everyone loves magic. I have heard people say to me 'I hate magic, it's so phony,' and then I show them a trick they cannot understand and within minutes they are captivated.”