Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Drawing fun out of a hat

Joshua Messado performs with his namesake rings at the Chicago Magic Lounge.

     When the Chicago Shakespeare Theater opened on Navy Pier in 1999, I used to say it was worth going just to sit in a seat there — the fact that they also put on a show was an added bonus.
     I had that same sense of being somewhere special just entering the Chicago Magic Lounge, 5050 N. Clark St., on a recent Saturday night. You almost have to. The establishment is hidden behind a fake laundromat, complete with spinning dryers. Guests aren’t fooled per se — it’s all too pristine to be an actual laundromat. But you know something extraordinary is afoot, a feeling magnified by the black-walled bar to the left and a pristine little lobby decorated with museum-quality magic memorabilia to the right. This feels like someplace you’d find at Disney World instead of a North Clark Street cabaret. Not a raw cinder block in sight.
     “Somebody put a lot of money into this,” I said to my wife. That somebody was Don Clark and his partners, who opened the Lounge in 2018. Clark invited us to stop by, and while two years of COVID-19 hunkering has gotten us out of the habit of regularly going places and doing things, the Magic Lounge seemed worth risking a visit.
     It is. The room had a boisterous party atmosphere before a single card was turned over.
     That night’s show, like Gaul, can be divided into three parts. First, roving magicians performed close-in magic at various tables, engaging in friendly banter and showing off well-executed card tricks.
     Second, the main show, consisting of two acts, opener Jimmy Rock and headliner Paige Thompson.
     Both presented routines built around finding the chosen card and assembling a number that then appears in an unexpected place. Rock is an actual Florida cop who does magic. ”It’s never fun to encounter a police officer,” said Rock, accurately enough. Thompson’s act involved people in the hinterland thinking a woman with purple hair doing magic has to be a witch. While her twist of dancing upon cards blindfolded to find the right one was different, it didn’t rise to what I consider high-caliber magic. Both were competent. Maybe a few cocktails would have helped.

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