The Chicago Magic Lounge was conceived in 2015 to bring the city’s tradition of bar magic back to the area. You shouldn’t be ashamed if you didn’t know the spot existed on Clark Street in Andersonville - the venue is disguised on the outside as a laundromat. As the Lounge’s website says: “Enter through the laundry.”
You’ll then find yourself in a bustling bar, where eager audience members are already witnessing close-up magic. At show time, you’ll be invited to walk through a secret entrance into the performance space, where an hour of personalized, close-up magic is offered in addition to the space’s bites and drinks. The opening acts we saw each performed a different card trick, amusing if not groundbreaking. Their kindness and eagerness to entertain make it clear that Chicago Magic Lounge wants audiences to get the most out of their visit.
You can catch a show any night of the week here, and the new Wednesday offering is Trent James’ Pure Lies. The evening promises “mind-boggling sleight of hand combined with engaging humor,” and though none of his tricks were truly shocking, the sold-out crowd couldn’t get enough of James’ self-deprecating jokes and his ability to set up a trick in front of you before switching things up for a punchline. James has achieved a great balance of comedy and trickery that keeps you on the edge of your seat, unsure if the next beat will cause a fit of laughter or an audible gasp.
Pure Lies is an intimate show, often feeling like you’ve brought a magician to your own private event. Some of the audience leaned a bit too far into this mindset, though, and it was disappointing that no one on staff helped James to keep them quiet. These drunken interruptions were a distraction from the otherwise elevated experience.
The only other gripe, then, is that the Chicago Magic Lounge’s front bar is open to the public. When we arrived at 7:10pm for the 7:30 show, we were informed that the lobby was at capacity, and we could come back at show time to enter. None of the neighboring businesses were open, so it was disheartening to wait outside in subzero temperatures.
Luckily, the rest of the experience more than made up for these matters. Trent James’ Pure Lies is an approachable and fun way to spend an evening, and the Chicago Magic Lounge is a must-see venue. That’s the pure truth.
Pure Lies continues at Chicago Magic Lounge Wednesdays through March 25. More info here.
The Hawk Chicago is included in TheatreinChicago's Review Round-Up.
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