Playwright: Sean Masterson
At: Chicago Magic Lounge, 5050 N. Clark, Chicago. Tickets: www.chicagomagiclounge.com/ . Runs through: Oct 2
How has the Chicago Magic Lounge existed since 2015 without my having been aware of it? This old fashioned magic club with its three performance spaces including an art deco main cabaret is a joyous celebration of the Chicago tradition of up close and personal magic. From the second you step through the cleverly hidden door in a false lobby made to look like the laundromat that once was housed in the building, you are in another world...or at least another time. First, there is a speakeasy-style performance bar in which patrons can drink or indulge in a fine selection of foods while being entertained before even entering the 120-seat theater. Then you are ushered through yet another hidden door into the cabaret, where you'll be treated to magic performed by roving magicians right at your table. ( Two tricks I saw, one by Justin Purcell and one by Danny Orleans, were among the best and craziest card tricks I've ever seen. )
The main show in the Artist-in-Residence series ( Wednesday nights ) is Sean Masterson's Timeless Magic, an homage to 19th Century magic and prestidigitation that features the personable Masterson taking us on a journey through classic illusions from magicians such as Harry Blackstone and Chung Ling Soo. The show is set up as a story about a souvenir silver half-dollar from the Columbian Exposition that was left to Masterson by his uncle, who told him that it was involved in a magic trick that left him mesmerized. The magician wanders through the glorious archives of old fashioned magic seeking to discover which magician did the trick his uncle raved about so he can learn how to do it himself.
As conceits for magic acts go, it's a good one. Without giving away any of the tricks you'll see, for it is all wonderfully entertaining, I can say that it allows the understated Masterson to perform a variety of clever, imaginative tricks with cards, coins, blocks, ropes, scarves and other props. It also provides plenty of space for him to reach out into the audience and pull people onstage to help...always among the highlights of any Chicago-style magic show. There is even a mind-reading puppet "ghost" whose presence allows Masterson the opportunity to indulge in a bit of elaborate humor.
Masterson is only one of the magicians performing each week at what is surely one of the best-kept secrets in Chicago. If the rest of them are even half as enjoyableand there were some tricks here, including the one involving that coin, that simply left me shaking my headyou'll be sure to have a ( dare I say it? ) magical time.