Review: For a Good Time, Call Ondřej Pšenička’s 52 Lovers at the Magic Lounge

If you have never been, the Magic Lounge in Andersonville is a former laundry with a facade of machines tumbling clothes when you walk in. The magic begins at the door and everyone is a part of the show from the door person to the servers. It was a perfect setting for Ondřej Pšenička's showman persona as he handled his 52 Lovers. Pšenička is an old-school showman, smiling with an intense gaze.

Pšenička is from the Czech Republic and his bio says that he fooled Penn and Teller—supposedly unfoolable—three times. He opened with a trick he did for them that I found rather blah. So maybe Penn and Teller are only acting as if they were fooled. Magic tricks and sleight of hand are indebted to the art of distraction. Pšenička distracts with music selections, jokes, and his custom-designed decks of cards. His props are cassette tapes, bespoke card boxes, and people called from the audience.

Pšenička also did a trick with Tarot cards. (I have a collection of Tarot cards and used to do readings at parties.) He picked four people from the audience and had them pull some cards. He asked one of the men in the group to read from Tarot for Dummies to describe the cards that had been pulled. The characteristics of the cards were then attributed to each of the group. I am not a fan of teasing the audience and his humor is to make himself smarter than everyone in the room. As long as it is said with a wry smile and a raised eyebrow it must be okay—especially if the audience laughs.

Ondřej Pšenička. Photo by Kathy D. Hey.

I enjoyed that Pšenička used all of the senses for his sleight of hand. The perfume trick was an original that I had never seen. His choice of music was good and I wonder if anyone noticed that he used both Leonard Cohen's original and Jeff Buckley's cover version of "Hallelujah" at different times in the show. He did some other illusions that were more traditional and my very favorite was the straitjacket. He had a staff member buckle him in. It was the first time I noticed a strap that went through the legs and buckled in the back. Ouch! He smiled and asked that it be pulled tighter with a naughty grin.

It was an enjoyable hour and the crowd's vibe was great for a Wednesday night. It is a positive sign that people are getting out and enjoying live entertainment. It is good that magic and other arts are bringing in audiences, after the pandemic. People dressed up in cocktail dresses and some wore ties. I recommend that you check out Ondřej Pšenička at the Magic Lounge. It wasn't mind-blowing but it was entertaining.

Ondřej Pšenička and his 52 Lovers perform on Wednesday nights at 7pm through June 2, at the Chicago Magic Lounge, 5050 N. Clark St. The ambiance is cool with authentic magic posters and ephemera from the late 19th and early 20th, centuries. The food is decent with a good bar and roaming magicians doing card tricks at the tables before the main event. My only suggestion is to vary the pre-show music. It was one song for nearly 40 minutes and I don't drink enough to ignore it.

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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.