Review: Joe Diamond's 'Close Encounters' full of magical moments

Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2016 5:02 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, June 22, 2016 5:05 p.m. CDT

By REGINA BELT-DANIELS

When you’re used to reviewing musicals and plays covering everything from acting to costume designers, reviewing a one-man show can be a challenge. Especially if the one man is a mind reader and magician.

But Joe Diamond has intrigued me since I saw him at the Listening Room’s Halloween show in 2015. And so, for the third time, I bought a ticket for one of his shows – his popular Saturday night “Close Encounters” at the reportedly haunted Dole Mansion in Crystal Lake. Only 13 people are admitted to Paranormal 215 Studio, and I was determined to watch so closely I’d figure out how he does it. After all, I am a child of the theater – I know how illusions work.

Diamond is a very personable 28-year-old. He meets and greets everyone outside the Dole Mansion. The assembled group follows him to Paranormal 215 Studio, a modest room with a sprawling outline of a tree (owl tucked in a corner branch) gracing one wall and pictures, books and knickknacks scattered around in orderly bookcases. Tonight, Diamond has arranged mismatched chairs in an oval so everyone can view each other’s reactions and unobstructively watch him.

Diamond begins the show by explaining what he does, and his sense of humor kicks in immediately. (“I’m not a medium, I’m a large.”)

His explanation that every pack of cards is a calendar makes sense: 52 cards in the deck, 52 weeks in the year; four suits, four seasons, 12 picture cards, 12 months, etc. “So when you shuffle a pack of cards, it’s like you’re shuffling time. Not bad for a $2.99 purchase from Walgreens.” Diamond picks two audience members, opens a sealed pack of cards, fans them in front of the two and tells them to say “stop” whenever they choose and to remember that card . A few minutes later, Diamond reveals exactly what the first woman stopped at. More astonishingly, later on in the show, a volunteer calls a friend in Port Barrington on her cell phone, and Diamond tells the crowd what card the friend has told the caller.

Yet, my favorite trick is “First Kiss.” Diamond asks a woman to write down the name of her first kiss. The card is folded, initialed and put in her pocket – Diamond doesn’t come near her. And within three questions (is there a letter L? Did it happen in the 8th grade? Did it happen inside or outside?), Diamond’s stated the first kisser’s name: Dale.

Diamond doesn’t mention he holds the 2010 World Record for solving the world’s largest maze blindfolded or that he drove a 1966 Pontiac GTO around the Woodstock Square blindfolded (with the Woodstock Police chief riding shotgun).

Mid-way through the show, he determines three objects plucked by a volunteer with six pieces of duct tape, two coins and a blindfold over his eyes and a nasal strip blocking his sense of smell.

The show is well-paced and ends too quickly, but not before each attendee receives a personal reading. Diamond won’t do “deep or dark” and encourages the audience to “call it like you see it and to be honest.”

Was I able to figure out how he does any of it? No. There’s a reason why his shows sell out quickly. Diamond is quick, intelligent, precise and practiced with a savvy repertoire. Like actors, magicians like to control others’ perceptions. And like acting, the best tricks work on many levels. So perhaps Diamond is one of the better skilled actors I’ve reviewed this year. Certainly, his show is full of magical moments.

• Regina Belt-Daniels is a working actress and director who began her career onstage in 1985 at the Woodstock Opera House. Currently serving on the Raue Center for the Arts Board, she also is a lifetime member of TownSquare Players and a retired District 47 teacher.

"Close Encounters"

WHEN: Selected Dates

WHERE: Dole Mansion, 401 Country Club Road, Crystal Lake

COST & INFO: Only 13 people admitted. Tickets Start at $25

Tickets and information: https://joediamondlive.wellattended.com/events/close-encounters