‘Asi Wind’s Inner Circle’ Review:
Pick a Card, Not Just Any Card.
A master at the top of his game, the magician Asi Wind performs fluidly and with obvious pleasure.
In “Inner Circle” at the Gym at Judson, the audience overlooks a round, velvet-topped
table, which seats about 10 people, who assist Asi Wind with many of his tricks. Hal Schulman
By Alexis Soloski
Jan. 30, 2023
The magician Asi Wind makes no claims to supernatural ability or
superhuman prowess. He is not a conceptualist, like Derek
DelGaudio, or a storyteller, in the manner of Helder Guimaraes, or
a mentalist, like Derren Brown, or an endurance artist, in the style
of his producer, David Blaine. His tasteful outfit layers black on
black on black, he scorns flash and eyeliner. His sole prop, beyond
a couple of paper envelopes, is a deck of cards. That deck has been
created by the audience, with ushers handing ticket holders a card
and a Sharpie and asking them to inscribe their names.
But when Wind manipulates those cards - with the occasional
ornate shuffle that speaks to thousands of hours of practice - he
reveals himself as one of the finest practitioners of close-up magic,
an intimate style that depends on the adroit manipulation of small
objects, working today. In the past months, I'd had a couple of
colleagues and a couple of rival magicians tell me that Wind was
the best card magician they: had ever seen. They weren’t wrong.
‘‘Are you seeing this right now?’’ a man in the audience said, loudly
and aghast, as Wind completed the first trick of ‘‘Asi Wind’s Inner
Circle.” Thanks to a purpose-built theater inside Judson Church
and the judicious use of an overhead camera, yes, we were.
Wind, who moved to New York from Israel 22 years ago, is bluntly
handsome in a sportscaster kind of way, with a polished smile and
an elegant bush of salt-and-pepper hair. A friendly host, he moves
between affability and gentle needling. “I'm going to lie to you
tonight, a lot,’’ he says, eyes agleam.
Here is one truth: Most of the tricks he does, under John Lovick’s
invisible direction, are familiar. Cards will appear in wallets, in
envelopes, under watches. He will pick them and guess them and
arrange them in precise patterns when they ought to be random.
Yet it’s not what he does but how he does it, with seeming
effortlessness and obvious pleasure, a master at the tippy-top of his
game. His ability to force a card on a volunteer - and force it and
force it and force it again - is unimprovable. Excepting a few
deliberate feints (moments in which Wind will appear to have
guessed wrong, though he never does), he tends toward perfection.
The title “Inner Circle’’ is a minor play on words. The rows of seats,
steeply raked, overlook a round velvet-topped table, which seats
about 10 people, who assist with most of the tricks. Close-up magic
is usually designed for an audience of this size, and certainly those
viewers are privileged in sitting so close. (Too close? “Come a little
closer,’’ Wind said, beckoning his table mates in. "Covid is over. I
heard it on Fox ”) But Wind has a way of bringing everyone
in and making everyone feel a part of the show.
The show has a thematic spine, though this spine is somewhat
flimsy. Wind uses the deck of audience-signed cards as an
opportunity to meditate, briefly, on the names we are given and the
names that we might choose. Wind was born Asi Betesh. At 13, he
changed it. This was both to spare Westerners the difficulty of
pronouncing his original surname (apparently we struggle
sufficiently with Asi) and to occlude his Sephardic Jewish origins,
which he then found embarrassing.
These ruminations are not Wind’s strongest suit. A practiced
showman, he is clearly most comfortable with diamonds, hearts,
clubs and spades. But whether you call Wind by his given name or
his chosen one seems almost beside the point. If you spend an hour
watching him manipulate the cards - fluently, fluidly - you will
want to call him what he is: astonishing.
Asi Wind's Inner Circle
Through September 3rd at the Judson Theatre, Manhattan; asiwind.com.
Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes.