Fantastic beast

When Luis Carreon takes the stage at the Chicago Magic Lounge, he’s pure old-school vaudeville, an elegant throwback in silver-toed boots and a tuxedo subtly imprinted with crushed velvet roses. He swoops around the stage to the beat of swirling music, spinning gold from fire and pulling rose petals from a fluttering deep-purple handkerchief. It’s an impressive, glamorous opening that evokes the spirit of the great Harry Blackstone Jr., who glowers mysteriously from a poster framed near the stage. Then Carreon starts talking and the show turns into something else entirely. 

Luis Carreon, La Bestia Through 9/28: Wed 7 PM, Chicago Magic Lounge, 5050 N. Clark, 312-366-4500, chicagomagiclounge.com, $80 front row, $70 premium main floor (main floor banquette and main floor cabaret), $60 standard (rail and elevated banquette), $50 mezzanine, 21+

Did you know? The Reader is nonprofit. The Reader is member supported. You can help keep the Reader free for everyone—and get exclusive rewards—when you become a member. The Reader Revolution membership program is a sustainable way for you to support local, independent media.

This is a magic show that is about more than the illusions, although those are first-rate (albeit not groundbreaking). And that gorgeous, unabashedly romantic opener aside, this is also a show where Carreon puts his verbal gifts—both as a comedian and a storyteller—to the task of celebrating his Mexican heritage along with his formidable skills at sleight of hand. In between the WTF-did-I-just-see full-body levitation, the Takis giveaway, the varied card tricks, and the wanton destruction/miraculous restoration of $50 bills, we hear about his grandmother’s home remedies and his Naperville childhood. Before he hit puberty, Carreon was certain: He’d grow up to be either a wrestler or a magician. His catchphrase, through troubles with magic tricks and troubles with life, is “si se puedo,” which he chants with the I-will-not-be-denied-bravado of Ted Lasso. 

Carreon’s rapid-fire patter never falters, even when the audience does. Twice opening night, volunteers blanked on which card they’d selected earlier, temporarily opening what initially felt like a portal to chaos. Carreon breezed through these moments with just the right amount of showmanship, are-you-sure, and oh-my-god-are-you-fucking-kidding-me until in each case, memories corrected themselves and the elusive cards materialized. 

There’s a bit toward the finale wherein Carreon finds himself having to pull a gold watch from the hind-end of a tiny donkey piñata. He sighs as he looks at the latter in a moment that borders on performance art, a sort of metaphor for those seemingly impossible situations we all face on occasions when salvation seems about as possible as flying monkeys emerging from one’s hindquarters. When the piñata cracks open to reveal an impossible thing, the moment is as funny as it is weirdly affirming. 

This is also a very physical show. Carreon’s finale involves no less than eight volunteers. It could be deadly repetitious, but Carreon gives each of the eight single interactions their own frenetic choreography. All he’s missing is a death drop. 

As a rule of thumb, I look deeply askance at any man who insists on being called “La Bestia,” especially with a fist-pumping, machismo bravado apropos of a soccer match. But Carreon does it with just enough self-deprecating irony to make you wonder whether this isn’t some satirical posturing. Either way, it’s so ridiculous it’s impossible to get mad at. As for the rest, somewhere Blackstone is smiling. 

Read More

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.