“Magic is not really about the mechanics of your senses. Magic is about understanding-and then manipulating-how viewers digest sensory information,” says Raymond Joseph Teller in a recent issue of Smithsonian Magazine. And nobody manipulates the senses better than Jillette Penn and this Teller guy.
Their show, still drawing large audiences at The Rio Hotel, Casino, and Resort in Las Vegas after 10 plus years, is a fun evening of manipulating and explaining and revealing and manipulating again, but you have to watch and listen carefully because they share secrets quickly and only once. To the duo’s credit, however, the tricks are still amazing and the show is lots of fun, especially when the secrets are outted.
Penn is the carnival barker; introducing and divulging and Teller is the silent Harpo, brilliantly playing off Penn’s lead in some remarkably deceiving ways. It’s almost magic, but it isn’t, insists Penn.
“There is no magic in this show, “he declares at the beginning and end of the show, “Whatsoever.”
Maybe Mr. Penn is deceiving us on that one. While it is well known that Penn and Teller are both solid atheists, and are clear with their negative views about anything “spiritual,” there is a deeper magic in this show. The entire evening of intelligent magical performance ensnares and engages an audience in its trance until both Penn and Teller release their prisoners. Maybe the magic is in the revealed truths, it is what they do, and they do it well. Or maybe they are trying to manipulate us again, this time into non-belief. I’m not sure which, but nevertheless the show wonderfully endures and captivates.
Penn exposes “mentalist” tricks by lending each audience member a joke book and then telling them the joke they randomly find in their books. Penn saws a woman in half, with gory results, and Penn and Teller confuse and mystify an audience member during the hilarious “Girl in the Ring” trick. In the “big trick” at the end of the show both Penn and Teller fire 357 Magnum hand guns at each other and catch audience inscribed bullets in their teeth. How do they do this? I’m not sure because I either missed the explanation or wasn’t told. Misdirection again.
While Penn is exposing and barking secrets Teller is mesmerizing. His performance with an obedient red ball is a lot of fun. (Thanks Penn for telling us before the sequence that it is done with a piece of string). His escape from a plastic bag filled with helium is marvelously funny, and his famous “Shadows,” performed with a rose in a glass vase and its shadow is beautiful and mystifying.
Even as purely professional performers Penn and Teller’s passion seems clear whenever they perform.
“One of the things that Teller and I are obsessed with, one of the reasons that we’re in magic, is the difference between fantasy and reality,” says Penn. And just for fun he adds. “We knew that we were kind of odd and creeps, and we wanted to do odd, creepy stuff for people who wanted to see that.”
See Penn and Teller, their magic and their creepy stuff at the Rio All Suite and Hotel Casino. You can buy tickets at http://www.riolasvegas.com/casinos/rio/casino-entertainment/penn--teller-detail.html.