For the uninitiated like I was, just entering the Chicago Magic Lounge on a chilly Wednesday evening was a thrill. Via a secret door, the faux-laundromat entry gives way to a luxe theater both steeped in history with posters of illusionists past and very much alive with a small army of close-up magicians working the room. Rebecca Spectre and Benjamin Barnes capably entertained my guest and I during cocktail hour, warming us up for artist in residence Harrison Lampert’s “maelstrom of insanity” (his apt words).
MixtapeThrough 3/29: Wed 7 PM, Chicago Magic Lounge, 5050 N. Clark, 312-366-4500, chicagomagiclounge.com, $40-$45
Harrison Lampert is awkward in the vein of some of my favorite cringe comedians (Nathan Fielder, Norm Macdonald) but likeably so, growing on you as you root for his bumbling tricks to pay off. And then realize they’re really a way into some uniquely absurd comedy. If he does one thing he commits to a bit, like his flat “thanks” after every round of applause and using the time it takes to pull out a ridiculously long handkerchief to have a breakdown about the monotony of his childhood chicken dinners. After a string of well-executed, more traditional tricks involving cards, disappearing eggs, linked rings, etc., he goes off script in an improv interlude. Prior to the show, audience members are asked to write phrases on scraps of paper, and he pulls them out of a fishbowl to create his own “mad libs” origin story as a magician. His quick thinking was fun to watch, as was the window into the predictably strange minds of all of us watching magic on a Wednesday.