Marc Salem with audience member
in Mind Over Manhattan
(© Robin Winbot)
Marc Salem with audience member
in Mind Over Manhattan
(© Robin Winbot)
Mentalist Marc Salem has returned to the New York stage for a four performance run of Mind Over Manhattan, playing at New York Society for Ethical Culture, in which he astonishingly overcomes enormous hurdles to delve into the minds of theatergoers.

Salem swears that what he does, for the most part, is based on scientific and psychological practice, and in certain instances, his techniques are evident, such as when he asks volunteers to draw pictures and then lie about their work. As he polls the participants, it's pretty evident from the way in which they hesitate or shift their body language to identify who is not telling the truth. And yet, even as theatergoers can predict the results, Salem has a clinical precision that is undeniably impressive.

Elsewhere, Salem's work simply defies explanation. During the final sequence of the show, in which coins are affixed with surgical tape to his eyes and then, to further deprive him of senses, his nose is plugged, he manages to identify objects collected from the audience, with not only remarkable accuracy, but also with incredible specificity about their history. How, audiences are apt to wonder, can he not only identify an earring but also the fact that it is set with a semi-precious stone?

At a recent press performance, Salem also had to contend with a different sort of obstacle in his work: volunteers who were less than quick on the uptake with the tasks at hand. For instance, he chose two boys for a bit of mind-reading in which one was to concentrate on a word from a randomly chosen page in a randomly chosen book.

Both young men (just barely, if at all, teens) were game, but as the sequence slowly and arduously moved forward, it was impossible to not sense Salem's growing frustration. Surprisingly, though, even here, Salem ultimately achieved his ends: the younger of the two was able to spell out the word his pal had been thinking of.

Similarly, Salem's work seems to lose some of its exactness within the somewhat vast domed auditorium in which he's playing. Overamplification only serves to distance theatergoers from the intimacy that such shows require. Ultimately, though, when Salem's work sparks, and his congenial nature and quick wit (along with an incredible penchant for bad puns) shine through, audiences most likely won't 'mind.'