Mindreading, Magic, and iPads is the intriguing subtitle of Paul Gertner's show Braindrops, and it delivers all three. Gertner, a magician with an interest in the way technology is becoming more intertwined with our brains — even replacing some of our brain functions — has created a show that will impress lovers of both old-school magic and magic that is, shall we say, enhanced with technology.
Gertner opens with a short monologue declaimed through an iPad that both covers and projects his face as he speaks (or as it speaks). This trick is put to use several times throughout the show, and sets up the idea that we are, in many ways, handing our brains, our wonder, and, incidentally, magic, over to technology.
However, this performance proved that magic still has the upper hand over iPads and smart TVs in one way, at least. Though we're all bombarded with tech, day in and day out, most of us don't have much exposure to the kind of magic tricks that involve nothing but a performer and a willing audience member. Gertner's first trick involving a deck of cards with names written on the back and some apparent mind-reading, which was incorporated into an interesting bit about Houdini, drew the kind of truly amazed reactions that no iPad will ever be able to match. As Gertner says, the human brain is infinitely more complex than the most advanced piece of technology. So couldn't it be possible that one mind can transmit a thought to another mind, just the same way our phones and computers talk to each other?
Gertner continues to explore this idea with magic tricks using both the iPad and more old-fashioned methods, interspersing them with classic tricks like the cups and balls and a hilarious bit that, using misdirection, ends up putting his cell phone number in every audience member's phone. Gertner's sense of humor is keen and likeable, and he keeps the laughs coming as frequently as he does the oohs and aahs. He is at his best when telling stories, such as he does about Houdini and later about the cups and balls trick, which archaeologists believe was performed by ancient Romans. Another high point was a mind-reading trick performed first on the iPad and then on a slate, which drew gasps from everyone in the room.
"'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,'" Gertner says in both opening and closing, quoting Arthur C. Clarke. That may be true, but thankfully good old-fashioned magic still has the power to awaken our wonder.