Review: Joshua Jay: Look Closer Offers Magic and Memory at Rhapsody Theater

As a longtime resident of Rogers Park, it warms my heart to see the Arts District coming to life again after the pandemic. One of the best things about the Rhapsody Theater is its dedication to the art of magic. They are running a series of magic shows that have something for everyone. My most recent foray into sleight of hand was Joshua Jay: Look Closer. I recently covered Extraordinaire With Alexandra Duvivier at the same venue and wondered how Jay's performance would be different.

Like Duvivier, Jay has a charismatic personality but he connected with the audience differently. It could have been his Midwestern roots or sense of confidence, but I liked his style. He entered through the audience, which was a surprise because everyone was focused on the stage. That is where he began connecting to audience members and making us laugh. He started with a collection of t-shirts that started with Doug Henning down the line to David Copperfield. These were magicians who revived magic and illusion in American pop culture.

Jay does not pull any of the weird arched eyebrow gaze that Copperfield does or play the hippie elf like Henning. He tells his story of how he taught himself magic and how memory plays a role in successful tricks. He also relays how he had a horrific water skiing accident that could have ended his career. The last thing to heal were two fingers on his left hand. They happened to be the fingers instrumental in doing card tricks. The personal revelations kept the audience enthralled.

A theme that ran through the show was a number that he calculated with suggestions from the audience. It seemed so random but the series of numbers appeared several times in different tricks. The numbers connected to a jaw-dropping balloon trick and a trick with a wedding ring. The finale was the wedding ring that appeared in a box given to an audience member to watch and not open.

At the end of the evening, I realized that I had been smiling throughout the show. It was great to have an evening of escapism and reasons to smile. One of the things about magic and illusion is trying to figure out how it is done. Jay has written several books on magic and performed all over the world. He set a world record for remembering numbers given to random audience members and performed that trick. Those numbers were in the same order as those from the start. Mind blown.

Jay is a master magician and illusionist and worth the time to see him perform live. Joshua Jay: Look Closer runs through April 28 at the Rhapsody Theater, 1328 W. Morse St. Running trine is 75 minutes. The show is recommended for ages 10 and up. Tickets start at $30 for performances Thursday-Saturday, with three shows on Saturdays. For more information and tickets, visit, and for information on Jay, visit

For more information on this and other plays, see

Did you enjoy this post and our coverage of Chicago’s  arts scene? Please consider supporting Third Coast Review’s arts and culture coverage by making a donation by PayPal. Choose the amount that works best for you, and know how much we appreciate your support!

Picture of the author
Kathy D. Hey

Kathy D. Hey writes creative non-fiction essays. A lifelong Chicagoan, she is enjoying life with her husband, daughter and three dogs in the wilds of Edgewater. When she isn’t at her computer, she is in her garden growing vegetables and herbs for kitchen witchery.