Magic Pebble Review of OiATER

Review by Eric Rose originally published on The Magic Pebble ( Used with permission.


One of the nicer things to happen to me during my two month surgery induced sabbatical was a surprise e-mail from Chicago magician Tom Dobrowolski. Tom’s e-mail included an advance copy of his latest offering – “OiATER.” For those who don’t get to Chicago much, Tom is a skilled magician who can often be seen behind the counter at Tim Felix’s MidWest Magic. This gives Tom some career options should anything ever happen in his chosen vocation of finance and banking. Tom’s “In The Hands Wildcard DVD” caught people’s attention a couple years ago and showed that Tom is willing to invest the thought into classic routines to bring them up to date for today’s performing conditions.

This go-around Tom has teamed up with magician Jeremiah Zhang to create an Oil and Water treatise. At this point in a review almost everyone who is in magic makes a comment about the love/hate relationship with Oil and Water. See the standard literature for those arguments, but don’t cheat yourself by making a decision against this manuscript yet . There’s more here than you have been conditioned to expect from Oil and Water.

OiATER’s centerpiece is a routine called “Regressive Oil and Water.” Regressive Oil and Water (ROW) is a theatrical close-up handling of Oil and Water that successively reduces the number of cards with each phase until down to just two cards, proving that red cards and black cards do not mix. For those doing the math at home, yes, a two card Oil and Water phase is at best, minimalistic and at worst, unnecessary. However, in the context of ROW this phase is a humorous pause before the final kicker, revealing that the previously shuffled deck has fully separated into reds and blacks by itself while sitting on the table through the entire routine.

There are two stand-out gems in Regressive Oil and Water, both have application in many other tricks. The first is the full deck separation. Well within the skill level of the beginner, this subtlety will have thinkers and tinkerers coming up with other uses. Word on the street is that Zhang has started applying the concept to Triumph with good results. The second gem in ROW is called the Dobrowolski Four-Step, a convincing nearly move-free face-up separation of two reds and two blacks. For those that fear this is sounding too easy and chopless, Zhang offers an option for doing a Tabled Four-Step that will have the most dedicated move monsters pulling out their hair over a "hands-off" sleight that looks like trick photography.

On its own, Regressive Oil and Water would make OiATER a good choice for the card man. However, this 47 page manuscript offers far more. After delivering ROW, Dobrowolski and Zhang start adding on ideas turning the trick into a session. Along with the previously mentioned Tabled Four Step, they also offer up alternative endings that were developed before the creation of the full deck separation. Just like any good session, the ideas come from yet more performers. In this case, it’s Eric Jones who offers up a clever ending that has a strong sleight of hand Reset feel to it. Zhang counters with his own handling, aptly called Ending III. As a bonus, Tom includes his follow-up routine, an efficient and logical handling of Curry’s Out of This World that eliminates OOTW’s too-perfect caveat while still maintaining the spectator based sorting of the cards. At this point, in the world of Infomercials, someone would yell “But wait, there’s more!” and in this case, they would be right. After everything else offered up in this book, they add “POW”, the “Progressive Oil and Water” by none other than Curtis Kam. In a private session with Curtis, Dobrowolski found that both he and Mr. Kam had been playing with the concept of Oil and Water with successively changing numbers of cards in each phase. While Dobrowolski was working his way down from a full deck to just two cards, Kam had been going the other direction from two cards to progressively more in each phase. A nice complement to ROW, POW is well suited for this manuscript. Be warned, POW requires access to a moderate magic library with standard references since it is more derivative and relies on the strong work of Carney, Kosby and others for some of its phases. All are clearly called out and the required texts are not difficult to come by.

In all OiATER is not just Oil and Water. It is card magic with an Oil and Water theme. There are new moves, old moves and a fair amount of performance theory. While not a complete encyclopedia of Oil and Water, there is enough to make a nice buffet to pick and choose from. The book’s computer enhanced photo illustrations are clear and appropriately placed. A full bibliography is included and gives the student additional threads to pick through and follow. The writing is clear and the only criticism I can level is that there is a generational variation between Dobrowolski’s and Zhang’s voices that occasionally catches the reader off guard. This is a negligible problem given the content of the material. I recommend OiATER.

Ste content © Copyright 2016 by Tom Dobrowolski.
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