Postcards From the Fringe

Was it magic? Mentalist Alain Nu's show,
Was it magic? Mentalist Alain Nu's show, "Circus of the Mind" -- one of many offered during the Capital Fringe Festival -- may leave you wondering. The festival continues through July 30. (Mark Finkenstaedt - For The Washington Post)
Friday, July 21, 2006

Alain Nu's Mind Games

Mentalist Alain Nu wants audiences at the end of his show to leave "questioning everything they just saw."

A recent demonstration in front of the National Theatre suggests it's likely he'll accomplish that goal. Nu shuffles a deck of cards and puts it back in the box. He asks a woman to think of a card and then to select another person from the small group watching him. She points to a tourist standing nearby who, at Nu's request, thinks of a number. The cards come back out of the box, the woman says she was thinking of the two of spades, the tourist says his number was nine and Nu asks what are the chances that the two of spades will be the ninth card down. Well, in Nu's deft hands, 100 percent.

So obviously audiences are going to leave asking, "How'd he do that?" But Nu also wants them thinking about the "powers of the mind" in hopes it will "lead to personal inspiration about your own powers and abilities."

He'll try to provoke such thoughts with a "very dynamic, interactive show" called "Circus of the Mind." It debuted a couple of months back and contains the "first dangerous stunt" he has performed live, one involving a ladder and six-inch gutter nails (and a disdain for superstition).

Nu, whom you may know from the four-episode 2005 series on TLC called "The Mysterious World of Alain Nu," adds that because his shows are often either on the college circuit or at high-end corporate events, he hopes to use the opportunity of the more free-form Fringe Festival to "explore his own fringe-iness." Considering that he's a big fan of both punk godfather Iggy Pop and a wide range of hip-hop, it should be a fun ride.

-- Curt Fields

ALAIN NU Friday and Saturday at 6 and 7:30. At the Helen Hayes Gallery at the National Theatre. Free.

Feeling a Little Punchy? So Is He

He is lazy, overweight and unattractive. Bawdy and brash. Rude. And in spite of it -- nay, because of it -- he is funny.

Meet Pulcinella, the slow-moving-but-fast-talking character from 17th-century Italian commedia dell'arte. Think Rodney Dangerfield in Harlequin drag.

Which brings us to "Punch's Progress: A Pulcinella Story," a one-man show created and performed by Aaron Cromie. His series of burlesque skits traces Pulcinella's influence on comedy, from British Punch & Judy-style puppetry to vaudeville ventriloquism to modern stand-up. There are masks, puppets -- and a lot of dirty jokes.

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