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String Theory Review
String Theory Review Summary: One 90 minute DVD, one bundle of string, $35 bucks and one String Theory Review. Is it gem or is it rubble? Stay tuned to find out.
String Theory Review: Effect
This has been referred to as a version of the classic Gypsy Thread effect. I'm not sure if I'd agree with that. Is every cut and restored string like object a version of Gypsy Thread? I'm not sure that it is. That aside, the effect is an in the spectator's hands restoration of a bunch of strands of string that are clearly separate.
String Theory Review: Method
The method . . . ah . . . well . . . you're probably not gonna like this. Allow me to quote directly from the DVD. Vince Mendoza refers to "whatever fabric you've chosen for them [i.e., the spectator] to wear." Wait? What? The fabric you've chosen for them to wear? He clears it up a moment later by saying that your spectator cannot be wearing a shirt that is synthetic, a poly-blend or rayon. Wait? So I have to be able to look at a spectator and know what material their shirt is made of? I don't even know the material of the shirt I'm wearing right now. You know, the one that's touching my skin. How the heck am I supposed know what my spectator is wearing?
Well . . . he answers that too. "Rub their shoulder." What!? Where's Ashton Kutcher? If you don't feel good about this, then he has some options. Have some custom seat covers made to put on the back of the chair, or you can place your jacket on the back of the chair (assuming it's not synthetic, poly-blend or rayon).
The method, folks, relies on something static clinging to the spectator's back. Yep. You heard right. Okay, so being a material and/or fashion expert along with feeling up your spectator doesn't bother you. I feel you. Literally, apparently. Let's look at the rest of the method. An old concept found in Tarbell — I'm 99% sure it's in there — using twine to create a very clever illusion is employed here. This method is very good, and I've used it before with great success.
All sarcasm aside, Vince Mendoza has, definitely, taken that principle to the nth degree (in a good way). Doing this effect requires you to create a special gimmick that you secretly ring into play from its hiding place on the spectator's non-poly, non-rayon back. Once you use the gimmick in performance, it cannot be used again until later that night when you have a spare 10 minutes or so to reset it — 10 minutes of moderate tedium and annoyance. That being the case, Mendoza recommends that you make up a bunch of the gimmicks at once and carry a dozen or so with you. This is a decent solution.
Of course, after all 12 performances, you'll have a pocket full of string wads that are useless until you reset them later. You can, of course, give them away. The gimmick actually disappears as the string is restored, so the string can be given out to the spectator if you'd like. You are supplied with a bundle of "String Theory" string. However, this is a commonly found item in a craft store, so when you run out, you'll be able to get more.
For every performance, you cut (i.e., permanently destroy) a length of string that is approximately the length of your arm span. If you decide to give away the restored string, then you will lose two pieces of string that are the length of your arm span with every performance.
To be clear, the venue where this works is a venue where you can detect the material a spectator is wearing and/or wear a jacket of the correct material and/or have a seat with custom seat covers made. The seat cover/jacket method is in case your spectator foolishly left the house wearing a rayon blouse that evening. Instead of static clinging the gimmick to the spectator's back, you stick it to your jacket/chair cover.
He mentions that this is an effect that is best for a stand up show or a set close up show. That's a fair and accurate statement. I would definitely say that this is NOT for strolling. That being the case, how does this play out? You invite a spectator up on stage and have her start to sit on the chair, but as you feel her up . . . er . . . um . . . I mean . . . feel her shoulder, you realize that it's a poly-blend blouse — apparently you have mad fabric identifying skills — so you say, "Thanks for letting me rub your back for a moment. Can you please go back to your seat and send someone up here who wore the right clothes?"
Fine. It's a set show, so you've made your custom chair covers thus allowing you to do this effect with naked spectators. You don't need no stinkin' spectator clothes. Fine. You perform the effect which, admittedly, is very visual and extremely deceptive (particularly if you're not familiar with this principle). Fine. Now you end the effect by pulling the ends of the string as it, super visually, restores. Unfortunately at this point, you must hold your arms extended with the string in the restored position. If you don't, the method will start to unravel right before your very eyes.
Mendoza gives instructions on how to deal with this by running your hand over the string 3 or 4 times, as he says. Then as he's demonstrating it, he realizes that it's more like 4 or 5 times. Then he says that by the fifth time it will be fine. Nope. It still wasn't. Imagine when your yo-yo string gets all twisted and tangled. It's kind of like that on steroids.
So, with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, I'll offer this statement. If you don't mind all of that, then the method is just fine. On the other hand, if you can wear a jacket of the right material and place it on the chair in your set show — to me, this is very reasonable — then this may actually be worth doing for you. In that case, you don't need to worry about what the spectator wears, and since you're not strolling, you don't need to reset, so this may be the perfect thing for that specific setting. I'll let you decide. Oh. Did I mention that you can't have anything else in your pocket that contains the little bundle of gimmick? No? Well you can't.
String Theory Review: Ad Copy Integrity
Well . . . I thought I was going to give the ad copy a decent score until I just re-read/re-watched it. Let's look at the written and the video one at a time.
String Theory Review: Written Ad Copy
The first claim is that the "best moments" happen in the spectator's hand. Actually only one moment happens in their hand, and that's the restoration. Maybe they're referring to the fact (as mentioned in the second paragraph of the ad copy) that the spectator can cut the string as well. Fine. I'll give them the fact that "moments" (plural) happen in the spectator's hand. However, beware. Do not be led to believe that they can cut them and hold them while you restore them.
Nope. You need to take the cut pieces make a little switchy-poo, and then place them in the spectator's hand. To be fair, this is kind of made clear in the second paragraph. I'm just making sure it's absolutely clear for you.
In the fourth paragraph they claim that it's a simple set up. There is nothing simple about this. Making the gimmick is a bit of a pain. Then you have to choose a correctly clothed spectator, feel 'em up, seat them, and load the gimmick on their back. Granted, sticking the gimmick on their back is quick and easy, so maybe that's the "simple" part they're referring to.
Next, the second bullet point claims that this is good for strolling. "Um . . . excuse me sir. I'm the magician. I'm going to rub your wife's shoulder/back area (even though I'm a total stranger). Then after I do that, I'm going to either rub your back or your friend's back until I realize that all of you are stupid and wore rayon, so then I'm going to make you lean forward so that I can put my suit coat on your chair . . ." Not for strolling folks.
Bullet point number four says, "Simple setup & pre-loading makes strolling & performing easy." I don't even know what that means. Maybe they're talking about another trick? The fifth bullet says that enough string is included to last many performances. Just by looking at it, I'd say you'll get between 20 and 30 performances. I'll let you decide if that's "many" performances or not.
String Theory Review: Video Trailer
Actually, the only issue I have with the video trailer is the dramatic tone that pushes this message. When your spectator sees you cut some string and restore it, they'll be forever altered. I'm not picking up what they're putting down folks. I'm a little burned out on these over the top melodramatic ad trailers.
String Theory Review: Product Quality
Whew. Well. This one is a roller coaster folks. First, let me say that the string is good quality and does what it's supposed to do. The video, lighting, audio, etc. were all very good quality. The teaching, for the most part was also really solid. However, there are definitely some issues. First of all, poor Vince Mendoza.
Every other thing he said, Eric Jones turned into some sort of sexual innuendo like an immature pre-pubescent child who just learned the word boner. Grow up man. It actually got to the point where Mendoza was stuttering and pausing awkwardly trying to avoid saying certain phrases or words that would trigger Eric Jones's Beavis laugh.
If you can get past that, don't worry, there's more. One of the weird things was that they continuously referred to Vince's performance footage. There was no performance footage of Vince doing this trick. The only footage was the one you saw Eric Jones do in the trailer. Also, it seems that they edited together the explanation clips out of order. The flow was weird, and they (on more than one occasion) would refer to segments that hadn't been shown yet. That's not the end of the world, but in most cases the footage would have made more sense to have been shown prior to the segment I was watching.
Eric Jones referred to this routine as modular. What? How does that work? A modular routine is one that has multiple phases thus allowing you to leave out a phase here and there, or only do one section of the routine, or do the modules in a different order, etc. "So . . . I've cut this string into pieces. It's modular sir, so I'm not going to do the other module . . . the restoration module." What?
During the explanation, Vince Mendoza, on more than one occasion, made a point of emphasizing that when the spectator sits down on the chair, they are to sit forward in the chair thus leaving a bit of the seat of the chair exposed behind them. This is, as he points out, in case the gimmick falls off of their back. If they are scooted forward (i.e., on the edge of their seat), then the gimmick will land on the seat of the chair rather than the floor.
Okay . . . how do you retrieve that? Excuse me ma'am. Now that I've felt up your back I'm going to grab your rear too. What? He never explains how to retrieve it. He sort of addresses how to handle it falling to the floor, but even that wasn't a complete solution. You may remember, an hour ago, when you started reading this review, I mentioned that at the end of the effect you have to hold the string taut with your arms extended until you can do your yo-yo unwind bit. Well, you may notice that Eric Jones didn't do that in the performance on the ad copy trailer. Groovy . . . so . . . teach us that. Nope.
You're gonna run out of this string, so how 'bout you tell us the best kind of string to buy? Nope. During the tedious set up, you used these two little clips to keep everything in place. Why not include those with the DVD? Nope. Vince Mendoza, you mentioned a way to use a Sanada Gimmick rather than the spectator's back. Great. Why not show us? Nope. Eric Jones, you tried to explain the Sanada Gimmick. You did a decent job. Why not show us? You're at the Murphy's Magic Warehouse. I'm pretty sure they've got one or two thousand of these in stock. Nope.
String Theory Review: Final Thoughts
Well, what do you think folks? Here's the crazy part. As much negativity as I've spewed above, this still may be the right thing for you. If you perform in a parlor or stage setting where you can control the chair situation, this is a very visual effect that can be done and seen from a fair distance. The tedious set up takes ten minutes (before you get to the gig, or even at the gig) and you're ready to go in your set show. The actual "secret" is good and works very well. If you have the right conditions for the switch, then this is a very doable effect, assuming you like it.
The moment of magic really is as clean (or not clean) as you see in the ad trailer. If the ad copy were more accurate, and some gaps during the teaching segment were filled in, this would receive a decent rating.
String Theory Review: Final Verdict:
2.5 Stars with a Stone Status of grubble with a very, very small 'g.'
Available at your Favorite Magic Dealer. Dealer's see Murphy's Magic for details.