Review: Mind Tripping Magic Act at the Hilton Hotel in Indianapolis Downtown

Lounge acts aren’t something Indianapolis theatre sees much of these days, but this once popular phenomenon still reigns in glitzy places like Las Vegas or Atlantic City. In an attempt to revive this seemingly lost art, the Hilton Hotel in Indianapolis downtown invites Indianapolis people to be part of its newest lounge act. Mind Tripping, a husband/ wife magic act, plays the Hilton Hotel of Indianapolis downtown now through August 14, offering over priced yet unique entertainment. At $25.00 per ticket ($20.00 for Indianapolis kids and seniors), one would hope that production values would be higher. With all the extras built into the ticket, its hard to say what audiences are really paying for. One $25.00 general admission ticket to this Indianapolis performing arts event gets patrons a seat in a tiny conference room of this Indianapolis hotel, a buy one get one free entree from the 120 West Market Fresh Grill and free parking in the Hilton garage. All these built in perks do little to help husband and wife team, Christian and Katalina, as they take audiences on a journey through illusion. Regardless, with an open (or rather a blank) mind, their show, albeit a bit cheesy, is enjoyable. But at what price do we hand over our brains to these strangers?

Christian and Katalina pair nicely within the boundaries of their husband and wife “schtick.” In brief program notes, audiences learn that the pair met in 1994 while both were serving in the United States Army. Katalina’s work as a Captain of Military Intelligence quickly caught the eye of Platoon Sergeant Christian. His background in psychology set them on a path (post service) to create an entire line of magic acts, which the team tour around the country. Favorites of the IndyFringe Theatre Festival in years past, this Indianapolis based duet is the only other act in town (besides Andrea Merlyn at Theatre on the Square) offering a regular act of illusion to Indianapolis theatre. They have taken their repertoire on the road to colleges and universities, corporate events and even cruise ships, leaving their act dusted with the kitschy residue of unconventional performances locales.

Christian, who is quick to refer to himself as the “star” of the show, brings an incredible ego to the stage. Dressed in a slick royal purple suit with a pyramid shaped mustache, on first sight this fast talking performer could easily be mistaken for a used car salesman. Employing many of the same tactics as a car salesman, Christian oozes charm. Yet he is always angling for his next move. On the other hand, his better half Katalina is a spunky and beautiful sidekick, with just enough measured patience to keep the audience focused on her husband’s antics. Though she lacks the stage presence that he possesses, it is as if this magician couple fit together like puzzle pieces, making each other and the act whole in their union.

Together they present themselves as the modicum of professionalism. With a well designed website (listed below) and a stellar lobby display manned by Katalina in her costumed ball gown, this illusionary act certainly knows how to project success. Drawing crowds into their show with a well groomed facade, they come off as direct transplants from the casinos of Las Vegas. Ready for some magic, my skeptical date and my eager self headed into their performance space, thus encountering the first cracks in a well planned illusion. Performing in a tiny room just off the Hilton lobby, Mind Tripping is played in front of a partial trapezoid of glittery mismatched curtains. Lit by four simple par-can lights and two overhead fluorescents, the setting left more than a little to be desired. Cheapness oozed out of every design choice, down to the garbage bags that blacked out fluorescent lights above the audience’s heads.

Underwhelmed by the setting, I found myself thinking that one could pay $5.00 less for a ticket to see Reasons to be Pretty at the Phoenix Theatre, and not only receive higher production qualities, but also a more interesting and stimulating show. Christian’s slight of hand was no doubt impressive as he started the performance with an array of card tricks. Their illusions ranged from telekinesis tricks to number tricks and even one pretty intense knife trick. As each illusion faded into the next, the husband and wife team were masters of building suspense and eliciting audience reaction. The “Wow!” factor of each of their reveals was unarguably successful. And in my responsibility as a regular theatre goer, I did my best to check my critical brain at the door, see past the cheesy exterior and enjoy the content of their show. I admit, the illusions stunned me almost every time.

However, I found myself troubled by the humor throughout the show. Corny jokes told in tandem by Christain and Katalina often garnered groans and eye rolls from the audience, yet fit perfectly with the schtick of the show. Eager to laugh and be entertained each patron followed their jokes willingly to the punchline. And just as the “We got you!” mentality reigned through their illusions, so too did this attitude permeate the punchlines of their cheesy jokes. The “yuck, yuck” knee slapping humor, however, isn’t what bothered me.

Off color comments from Christian, who felt more than comfortable making generalizations about women, left me feeling alienated as an audience member. Two off the cuff comments stick in my mind in particular: one about women being able to smell money and the other about one female audience member equating a hundred dollar bill to a pair of shoes. As the illusions rolled on, the team chose a majority of women to participate on stage, often taking advantage of date dynamics in the room. An overall attitude of sexism, which seemed to permeate Christian’s view of the audience is one illusion that made the entire show a bit more transparent to me.

But when asked if I had fun at Mind Tripping, now playing the Hilton Hotel in Indianapolis downtown, my answer was a resounding, “Yes.” I was 100% entertained my the antics of their husband and wife dynamic. However, would I pay $25.00 to see this show? Absolutely not. Simply put, Mind Tripping was a bit like eating fast food: it felt good while it was happening, but left me feeling greasy and sick as I digested it. More fulfilling, enriching and artistic experiences that are equally if not more entertaining can be had throughout Indianapolis art for less money. Catch Reasons to be Pretty at the Phoneix Theatre for between $15.00 and $20.00. Or catch a performance from Dance Kaleidoscope at White River State Park July 23 and 24 for absolutely FREE.

Whatever you decide to do, take advantage of the sumptuous Indianapolis restaurants serving up delectable cuisine everyday. After the show, keep the fun coming over cocktails and beer from any of these Indianapolis bars. Stay tuned to Indianapolis News, Events and Information on Fun City for all the latest on fun things to do in Indianapolis. We cover Indianapolis attractions to Indianapolis sports and everything in between. Get out in Indy and find some fun! Make the Circle City your playground!

Mind Tripping
Now through August 14

Hilton Hotel of Indianapolis Downtown
120 West Market Street
Indianapolis, IN