In a little storefront in Boystown, there is a tiny lush space that has been transformed into a magic den. Festooned in crushed velvet and dotted with antiques, the atmosphere creates a magical vibe four nights a week (two shows on Saturday) and puts the audience in the right frame of mind for the classic antics of a gentleman magician while passersby stare raptly at the mysteries inside through the glass.
What happens at the show Trickery Chicago is all part of the vision of magician Aaron Rabkin and his sidekick, Hoppy the Psychic Wonderbunny (with just a little bit of help from Steve, the clandestine backstage assistant). In this intimate space, Rabkin runs the mixed crowd (which seemed to be made up of couples, carousing Cubs fans and Boystown rovers) through a series of increasingly spectacular if classic magic tricks. There is a lively atmosphere, augmented by the intimate space and the BYOB policy. It begins with some fun patter, some sleight-of-hand and a propensity for a little camp in a shiny jacket and builds from there. Rabkin quickly delineates his work as either tricks or miracles, and he plays with the audience, sucking us in, gaining our trust, and then blowing our minds with seemingly impossible feats. Boxes inside of boxes unfold, disappearing eggs come and go, cards change their position in space and some mentalism is lightly explored in the name of entertainment.
Volunteers are frequently needed and treated with care and then tend to leave Rabkin’s stage dumbfounded. (The Psychic Wonderbunny finale was particularly astounding.) All of these tricks inspire the urge to look harder, until one’s eyes are popping, staring fruitlessly at sleeves and hands, while balls miraculously move from cup A to cup C and back again. But no matter how sharp your eyes are, you will be gasping every so often with the rest of the crowd. What is highly fascinating about Trickery is the solo show aspect of it, which creates a playful environment that vacillates between performance art and chumminess as events unfold. Rabkin’s presence projects a wholesome yet suave boy-next-door vibe, nothing too racy until a sideshow moment creeps in to the show—a bit of light saber swallowing then turns the evening in to a nail biter and adds a welcome dash of danger. It will be interesting to follow the development of Trickery as Rabkin adapts to his growing audience and adds new material to the show. Perhaps the presence of a guest magician appearing in a brief slot could add some of the drama of improvisation that working with others creates on stage and keep audiences coming back for more rounds of this entertaining show.
Trickery is a splendid night out for magic fans, but also for friends who’d like to see their pals sawed in half and for dates who want to have a good chat after the show. The true charm of trickery lies in how Rabkin manages to embrace the showmanship of vaudeville, sideshow and cabaret and cram it all in to a one-hour one-man-show full of solid magic that baffles and astounds.
Shows are at 8pm Thursday, 8pm and 10pm Friday and Saturday, and 2pm Sunday. Trickery tickets are $20 and seating is limited so reservations are encouraged. It’s located at 3453 N. Halsted St.