Not many events are able to sustain a seven-year run in the Windy City, making us increasingly curious about The House Theatre's The Magic Parlour starring Dennis Watkins. What does one even expect at an intimate magic show like this, and could it possibly live up to the hype? The answer is a resounding yes, in that The Magic Parlour is a truly baffling and exciting experience from start to finish.
The audience meets at a restaurant in the lobby of the historic Palmer House Hotel before being led to the lounge for the performance. Wine, beer, and other beverages are available and included in the cost of your ticket. We were greeted by Watkins upon entry as the other patrons arrived, striking a casual tone and bringing to mind the feeling of attending an exclusive party. Guests are split between various tall cocktail tables and a semi-circle of seats. Seating is first-come, first-served - but don't stress. There's not a bad seat in the house, and there's nowhere to hide from the man running the show.
Providing any specifics about the performance would rob of the surprises, but Watkins' charm and energy are infectious and his illusions are masterful. Part of the fun is guessing how he is pulling off some of the simpler-seeming tricks before he shifts into utterly mind-blowing territory. Watkins does a wonderful job of adapting to the audience responses, and even reluctant participants (including myself) were thrilled when they got to witness one of his slight of hand tricks right under their noses.
It's clear that The Magic Parlour appeals to tourists staying downtown, but The House Theatre's long-running event should please both casual fans and magic aficionados alike. Dennis Watkins is the perfect host, and the evening features endless shocks and surprises that will leave you permanently stunned. The Magic Parlour is a bewitching theatrical escape that will make you feel like a kid again.
Highly Recommended ★★★★
Review by Jason Berger
Tickets for The Magic Parlour are currently on sale through 2019. More info here.
The Hawk Chicago is included in TheatreInChicago's Review Round-Up.
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