Fear and love in one night: Joshua Jay's Six Impossible Things
World-famous illusionist Joshua Jay brings an emotional new show to just 20 people at a time, set inside a Lower East Side escape room.
Illusionist Joshua Jay is kind of a big deal: a world champion magician by age 17, he’s played to crowds over 100 countries and even fooled Penn & Teller. And that’s exactly why he wanted his next act to be something totally different.
His new show, Six Impossible Things running now through July 28, leads an audience of just 20 people through the Lower East Side escape room The Mist, experiencing each act in a different way. “We’re doing magic in the dark, we’re doing magic with everybody huddled around, we’re doing magic with me on the ground and everybody looking down on me,” Jay says.
“These are ways that, without overstating it, nobody’s ever tried to theatrically stage a show like this because who would ever say, ‘You know what, this illusion looks best with me cross-legged on the ground and everybody huddled over me. Let’s build it around that.”
Jay is based in New York, but much of the time he’s touring on stages where he’s separated from the audience and staring into bright lights, making the crowd melt into a mood (loud, laughing, drunk) rather than people. “When I occasionally get to do really small groups, they’re not one thing — they’re 20 different people,” he explains. “This is the first time in a long time where I can see everything. So I made the incalculably bad business decision to do a show in New York, but only for 20 people and on top of it, we’re going to make sure nobody comes more than once.”
That’s right — tell your friends, but you can’t come with them. “Surprise is such an important element of magic,” Jay says simply, and it’s especially true for Six Impossible Things.
He’s been working on the show for three years, honing it with the help of U.K.-based mentalist Luke Jermay. The final result is actually eight illusions, with an opener and a “kind of an impossible thing at the end,” Jay says cryptically. “The title gains meaning when you see the set and when you see the first piece of the show.”
Working in such a small venue, he was able to mold his illusions and involve the audience, who will be participating by holding items and even tasting things (and, of course, having their mind read). “Magicians play it way too safe, and there isn’t as much innovation going on in my field as I wish there was,” he says. “And that’s sort of why, when you bite off something like this show, I get to reinvent every part of the experience.”
Just as with escape rooms, everything is there for a reason (the French illustration Serge Bloch created the sets), and Jay specifically worked to inspire reactions beyond the initial surprise: from a scary moment to an act that’s “a few steps short of syrupy sweet,” with acts big and very small.
“I don’t usually do things that split the crowd, but this show definitely does and that’s so exciting to me,” he says. “I keep coming back to the phrase passion project — I do so much for my career and just to keep the momentum going, tours and corporate shows and traveling around. Every few years, I allow myself to just do exactly the show I want to do without constraints, and this is that time.”
Six Impossible Things is in previews now, with opening night on June 9 and running through July 28, 2018. Tickets are $106-$126; siximpossiblethingsshow.com