Is technology making us dumber?

In “Braindrops-Mindreading, Magic and iPads,” Paul Gertner uses sleight of hand to take a bite out of the technology fruit.

REVIEW BY LAUREN SMART Special to The Post and Courier

Apple products seem to be the forbidden fruit of the festivals. At Spoleto, Mike Daisey condemns aspects of the company’s outsourcing in “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.”

In “Braindrops-Mindreading, Magic and iPads,” which opened Friday night as part of Piccolo Spoleto, Paul Gertner uses sleight of hand to take a bite out of the technology fruit.

For five performances at the Threshold Repertory Theatre, award-winning illusionist Gertner asks the question, “Is technology making us dumber?”

Gertner opens his show with an admittance that he is going to lie. His show consciously explores the line between what is true and what the brain can convince itself to believe. After all, who is less trustworthy than a magician?

Gertner’s manner blends a televangelist and a Vegas magician as he dissects illusions and offers insight into collective thoughts and the complexities of the human brain.

An Everyman magician, Gertner aptly convinces the audience of his ignorance to any given trick’s outcome. He works magic with his iPad and a TV screen, then performs simple card tricks, proving his mastery of elementary illusions and the technology he is denouncing.

Near the end of the show, he rests the iPad on his face and it communicates his facial expressions as he sings along to a Willie Nelson ballad, exploring the nostalgia of progress.

One of the show’s strengths is Gertner’s ability to engage the audience. As with a typical magic show, Gertner asked people in the first rows to choose a card and pick a number between one and 10.

But the reveal is much more relevant than the average magic trick, as Gertner encourages you to be aware of the deceptions prevalent in illusion and technology.

During Friday afternoon’s performance, he called upon a woman in the front row to be his assistant. Gertner encouraged the audience to participate in his deception in order to prove that truth often depends on perspective.

Gertner bills himself as an “infotainer,” and “Braindrops” is packed with information. From the history of Harry Houdini to facts about the human brain, he is ultimately preaching the importance of awareness.

And nothing could be more relevant in a world saturated with technology, where social media sites sell your personal information.

“No one trusts a magician,” Gertner said in one of his closing lines, “but without thinking we’ve learned to trust technology.”

“Braindrops” will make you think twice. After the show, two women remarked that they wanted to get rid of their Apple stock. Then they reached into their purses and turned on their iPhones.

Lauren Smart is a Newhouse School graduate student.

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