Just down the stairs inside the new Upper West Side restaurant, the Oxbow Tavern, awaits a theater of velvet Victorian couches and leather chairs facing a red curtain‑draped stage. Jazzy music plays. Soon, “Nothing Here is Real” starts, and with that, Gary Ferrar, part magician, part mentalist, part mind‑reader and part philosopher, weaves his spell of magic and warmth. Mr. Ferrar’s tricks employ old and new standbys. Coins, cups, balls, a pool table, slips of paper, watches, cereal boxes, and even a newspaper are his tools for eliciting delight and surprise. Mr. Ferrar’s voice, personal style and intense emotional affect all conspire to draw the audience in. We follow his commands and invitations to pay attention and participate. As we watch, our logic and skepticism kick in, and we scrutinize his movements and deceptively transparent demeanor. It is at just these moments that he tricks and confounds us. And therein lies the pleasure of the show. Along with his quick delivery, it is Mr. Ferrar’s electric smile that injects the show with wonderful moments of connection between him and the audience. As he scrutinizes faces and reads minds, the audience is the object of his emotional charisma. The effect is intense and exciting, as he produces the word or thought that an audience volunteer had been asked to think of. The show runs the gamut from light to serious. Part magic show, part crowd‑pleasing comedy, the night is a good time. Drinks are awarded to audience members who participate. Mr. Ferrar’s show creates a warm atmosphere that transforms the audience into a coterie abuzz with expectation. There were a few times when applause followed a trick, perhaps, a bit too slowly; some of the tricks during the first half of the show lacked a certain grandiosity. Mr. Ferrar sometimes asked the audience to follow small objects or convoluted lines of thinking. But in the second half, his tricks rose to a higher level of drama, and displayed the wow‑factor that kept us leaning forward in our seats. One of Mr. Ferrar’s final stories of the night was about how his grandparents met, on a double date in 1944. Because of his grandmother’s unique choice of a certain unexpected dessert, his grandfather immediately fell in love with her. Mr. Ferrar relays this sweet story to illustrate how the choices we make affect our whole lives. Mr. Ferrar embeds this story in the performance of a few seemingly unrelated tricks that unexpectedly refer back to his grandparents’ meeting with delightful poetic grace. Nothing here is real. Nothing here is real. Say that phrase enough times, and you begin to question everything. The effect is disarming and wonderfully destabilizing. Mr. Ferrar’s show jolts us out of our complacency. The title of the show—repeated often throughout the night—creates the charmingly ethereal quality of the night. Mr. Ferrar makes us question everything we see. In doing so, we come to consider that statement and all of its larger implications. For an evening that serves to challenge, inspire and disrupt our assumptions, not only about the tricks onstage but also about society and ourselves, see “Nothing Here is Real.” You will leave lighter and deeper than you entered. “Nothing Here Is Real” Written and Performed Gary Ferrar June 25, August 27, and September 24 Photo credit: courtesy of the production Oxbow Tavern 240 Columbus Ave New York City
CYNTHIA DARLING is a writer and teacher living in Hell’s Kitchen. A writer for NAfME’s Teaching Music magazine for many years, she also wrote for New York Family magazine. She is currently working toward an MFA in Creative Writing with the Bluegrass Writers Studio. Her fiction and nonfiction appear in Louisiana Literature, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and Wanderlust Journal.