How does he do it?!?!?!

It’s an oft-heard question at any magic show, and it’s certainly heard at ASI WIND’S INNER CIRCLE at the Judson Gym.

Not that Israeli-born Wind is a magician in the rabbit-out-of-the-hat or lady-sawed-in-half sense. He’s a wizard with cards, to put it extraordinarily mildly. After spectators saw what he did with them, they exclaimed “Oh-my-God!” more than any Aggie whoever consorted with the top-notch employee in the best little brothel in Texas.

We all know that a live theatrical event tends to start seven minutes late, but at least on January 12th, INNER CIRCLE more than doubled that number in tardiness. 

Part of the time lost involved who would be the chosen few to sit at the inner circle table with the handsome and debonair Mr. Wind. Some who were already seated for only a few minutes were evicted in favor of others. People came and went so quickly around there.

As the delay continued, the man next to me quipped, “Did the magician make himself disappear?” Then the poor soul returned to squirming and struggling to get comfortable in his chair.

Yes, chair, not seat. Each is armless and set on a semi-rickety row in a wooden half-circle, amphitheater style in stadium seating.

Meanwhile, the rest of us were pressed into service with a writing assignment. Mr. Wind’s cards, you see, although around the same size as are found in the standard joker-to-ace deck, are quite different. Each has a big space in the middle into which you’re asked to write your full name in either red or black ink. Sharpies are provided, perhaps as a metaphor that you’ll be dealing with a card sharp.

That term is defined as “a person who uses skill and/or deception to win at card games.” The audience would soon have a chance to decide whether “skill” or “deception” best described Mr. Wind’s tricks.

(No, as we would eventually see, “tricks” would be too demeaning a term for all that Mr. Wind achieves.)

In addition to providing your name on a card, you’ll put your first name initial in the lower left and upper right hand corners. Those will play a big role in Mr. Wind’s stagecraft. He’ll ask an audience member to give his middle name – “Daniel” was the one given by a theatergoer – and then he’ll shuffle the cards and somehow will pull out D-A-N-I-E-L in that order.

By the halfway point 45 minutes in, the more skeptical in the crowd may assume that there are more plants here than can be found in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Perhaps, but the gasps from the type of theatergoers who applaud to keep Tinkerbelle alive will overwhelm the Doubting Thomases.

Many who stay in the inner circle will be asked to shuffle as well. At that January 12 performance, the first person who picked a card from the deck just happened to get the one that had his name on it. Mr. Wind expressed surprise and frustration, prompting us to believe that he would now be thwarted from what he’d planned.

Not quite, as we soon saw. What Inspector Clouseau famously said –

“Every move I make is carefully planned” – applies to Mr. Wind, too.

“It’s amazing what you can do if you practice,” he modestly said in his charming Israeli-tinged accent.

However, when the late, great Ricky Jay did his card tricks for us, he had a screen behind him on which close-ups were projected that showed his every move. We wound up having more respect for him because a camera would be more likely to reveal the sleight-of-hand that our mere eyes couldn’t take in beyond Row B. 

Here Mr. Wind only offers us an occasional close-up via projection on the circular table. With his inner circle mates sitting around him and leaning forward, many in the audience can’t see what those projections reveal; if they could, they may well increase their admiration for him. For that matter, if the person in front of you leans forward to see better — as many an attendee did — those behind will feel left behind.

Most entertainers, be they accomplished or putrid, assume they’re terrific. Mr. Wind certainly believes that he fits in the latter category. After applause greeted one trick, he deemed it not commensurate with his achievement. “Come on!” he demanded, and the crowd dutifully fed his ego with more energetic hand-clapping.

After that, Mr. Wind took no chances. He’d follow an astonishing success by taking his right hand and loudly slapping it on the table to cue the audience to give him his due.

Audience members should beware of being chosen to do a chore far more daunting than “Pick a card, any card.” One poor soul was conscripted to actually leave the theater, go into the street and ask some passerby to give him a number between 1 and 30. Doesn’t Mr. Wind know (or care) that New Yorkers swoop away from anyone who says “Excuse me, sir?” How many times have we avoided those “Can-you-name-a-state-that-ends-with-K?” pests or those who want to convert us to a new religion?

ASI WIND’S INNER CIRCLE was expected to shutter on January 1, but intense ticket demand pushed the closing to Feb. 26. Even more demand has stretched the run to April 2. If this is the type of show that makes you sing out “That’s entertainment!” you’ll be glad that Asi Wind’s got magic to do, just for you.