A juicy theatrical controversy is swirling around Eric Walton's "Esoterica", a solo tour-de-force of sleight-of-hand, card tricks and mentalism. As we duly noted in our review of the show, Walton's performance climaxes with a rendition of the "Knight's Tour", a trick that Ricky Jay brought back from obscurity to conclude his 2002 evening of illusions. (Some might recognize Jay as 'that guy' from the Mamet movies, but he is also widely respected as a walking encyclopedia of sleight-of-hand.)

2006_09_cards.jpgAccording to an article in The New York Times, Jay came to see "Esoterica" and had this to say, “I paid for a ticket and I sat through the show and I would very much like my money and my material back.”

This could get good! There are other tricks in "Esoterica" that Jay had performed in his show and in a letter to Walton, magician Jules Fisher suggests that the presentation of the "Knight’s Tour so closely approaches its inspiration as to border on plagiarism."

Walton, in his elaborate riposte, asks: "Does performing an existing effect, or variation thereof, confer upon the performer of it ownership of that effect, or the exclusive and perpetual right to all subsequent interpretations of it?”

Fair question. In his show, Jay made it clear that the history of the "Knight's Tour" stretches at least as far back as Harry Kahne, a 1920's performer. But it seems Jay was the first one to do it in a very long time and there is, supposedly, a magician's etiquette about that sort of thing. (Any Illusionists have an opinion on this?)

We feel the only satisfactory way to settle this is for Jay and Walton to square off in a Battle Royale Sorcerer's Duel, hopefully involving torsos transmogrified into barnyard animals.