Written and Performed by Howie Jones
Part of the 2022 Frigid Festival
Runs through 2.26.22
The Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street
by Max Berry on 2.21.22
Howie Jones in That sh$t don't work! Does it?
BOTTOM LINE: Howie Jones performs a show full of magic and hypnotism, but lets the audience control the show rather than the other way around.
That sh$t don’t work! Does It? is a magic/hypnotist show, in which performer Howie Jones takes the audience through several tricks, from guessing words on a page to hypnotizing volunteers onstage. It’s clear Jones is good on his feet and has enough improv skills to both banter back and forth in a fun way, as well as to deftly handle unexpected audience responses. But I found myself hoping that his obvious skill would be used to carry the show, rather than simply rein in an unruly crowd. And while Jones is a good storyteller, during the tricks in between, I started guessing the end of each trick before it happened.
Hypnotism relies heavily on the participant believing that hypnosis can actually work, and then allowing themself to be influenced. It admittedly feels slightly strange reviewing a show that depends so heavily on audience participation. And indeed, Jones lets the audience move the show, rather than making us go on a journey he has already laid out. Based on the environment he lays out in the first two acts, it doesn't feel like Jones has as much control over things as you might expect. Moments where he runs backstage to get something he forgot, or skips over certain bits entirely, suggests he's putting the audience more in the driver’s seat that perhaps they should be.
That said, these moments are the only connection to the title That sh$t don’t work! Does it?, which makes me wonder—is all this intentional? If so, and if it had been carried throughout the entire show, this "I'm not in control but really I am" idea could have been a funny and cool twist on a typical hypnotism act. But Jones doesn't lean into this enough for this all to be clear. Put another way, the structure of the show left me wanting more.
(That sh$t don't work! Does it? plays at The Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street, through February 26, 2022. The running time is 50 minutes with no intermission. Performances (live or streamed from home) are Thu 2/17 at 10:30, Sat 2/19 at 8:15, Tue 2/22 at 8:45, Thu 2/24 at 7, and Sat 2/26 at 1:15. Masks and vaccines required in the theater. Tickets are $20 (live) and $10 (streamed from home) and are available at frigid.nyc.)
That sh$t don't work! Does It? is written and performed by Howie Jones.