Gerry McCambridge strengthens his reputation as the king of “How did he DO that?!” He even does it without a deck of cards or a top hat.
V Theater Group, LLC
Does Gerry McCambridge read minds? Or are we just that obvious?
It seems impossible. With every favorite movie, random word from a dictionary, or collection of hypothetical lottery numbers he guesses correctly from the selections of his random assortment of volunteers, Gerry McCambridge strengthens his reputation as the king of “How did he DO that?!” He even does it without a deck of cards or a top hat.
“The Mentalist” at Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino has captivated audiences since 2005, ever since McCambridge transitioned his one-man Off-Broadway hit of the same name to Vegas for a long-running residency. McCambridge pioneered the “Mentalist” persona in the early ’80s, first in comedy clubs and corporate events, then as a guest on TV and radio shows and star-studded benefits and balls. The son of a detective, in 2002 McCambridge sold a pilot script about a police detective who uses similar powers of observation and persuasion to solve crimes. It was picked up by TNT for a series (similarly titled “The Mentalist“) that ran for over 150 episodes.
The Planet Hollywood residency is a very stripped-down kind of “magic” show – no fireballs, no swords, no vanishing elephants. There’s just McCambridge making prediction after uncanny prediction. He guesses the favorite bands and first-date movie selections of volunteers that he sure seems to have just met. He walks other volunteers through elaborate setups – picking a single word from the dictionary, or a selection of novels – and produces written evidence that he accurately guessed their selection before the show even started. He explains to the audience that he uses subtle suggestion and elimination, as well as body language cues and inferences, to guess the most likely outcome. It sure does seem like mind-reading and future prediction, though.
Sometimes the 90-minute show smacks of a garbage theatrical seance – “Everyone think of the name of someone you know … Got it? Okay, I’m feeling a Jessica. Who’s thinking of Jessica?” Naturally, someone was thinking of a Jessica and stands up; McCambridge has his volunteer, whom he walks through and guesses some of Jessica’s personal qualities. We’ve seen this before on late-night TV, though McCambridge’s performance chops carry the bit.
Elsewhere, though, McCambridge tosses nerf balls with lottery numbers out into the crowd, seemingly at random, narrows it down to six, displays the haphazardly winnowed foam powerballs in a line onstage, and then produces a lottery ticket he purchased that morning with those exact numbers, in that exact order. Um, what?! If these volunteers were planted, or if McCambridge is somehow a hoax, he has never been caught.
McCambridge raises the stakes by risking serious injury in the climax. He places a large spike under one of three paper cups, blindfolds himself, and the cups are shuffled around like in three-card monte. He then instructs a volunteer to pick which cup he will smash with his bare hand. If they pick the wrong one, he tells the audience, his hand will be impaled on the spike, at which point he will “scream like a little b**ch.” (Rated PG-13 for language.) There is real tension in the audience – if these people had wanted to see arterial spurts of blood, they would have bought tickets to “Evil Dead, the Musical“, Yet somehow, McCambridge smashes one cup, then the other, never encountering the spike, even picking up the final cup to show that the spike was there the whole time.
Through it all, McCambridge is funny and self-effacing, with a deadpan everyman vibe. He doesn’t pretend to be a real psychic. He doesn’t have to – his powers of observation and persuasion are impressive enough.
Verdict: Low-key, astonishing, and affordable starting at $38 a seat, The Mentalist at Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino is a fascinating journey into the truth behind mind-reading. Are we really that much of an open book? If so, Gerry McCambridge knows how to read us.