Indulgence and illusions

Back in the Before Times, I saw Carisa Hendrix perform as her alter ego, dipsomaniacal Lucy Darling, at the Chicago Magic Lounge. Combining va-va-voom Golden Age of Screwball Comedy glitz and sass with sleight-of-hand involving making bottles of whiskey appear and disappear, Hendrix/Darling’s act both celebrates and upends the “sexy assistant” trope in magic. She’s not just for show. She is the show, and her “assistants” tend to be the men she pulls up onstage as her comic foils—the Ralph Bellamys to her Irene Dunne.

Lucy Darling: Indulgence
Through 7/16: Thu 8 PM, Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 3, 7, and 9:30 PM; also 10 PM Fri 7/15; no show Thu 7/14; Rhapsody Theater, 1328 W. Morse, 888-495-9001,, $35-$75

Lucy Darling: Indulgence is the kickoff show for the new Rhapsody Theater in Rogers Park, run by magician/neonatologist Dr. Ricardo T. Rosenkranz. (In a sly nod to Rosenkranz’s day job, the art deco-style curtains for the stage have caducei woven into the panels in between two huge lush golden peacocks.) The space has been refurbished from its time as the Mayne Stage, but it retains intimacy and warmth, along with more room to move onstage than the Magic Lounge offers. In an interview in May, Rosenkranz told me that he hopes it will be a center for more illusion-based magic, rather than solely Chicago-style close-up art; while Lucy Darling: Indulgence doesn’t fully lean into illusion, the bigger stage feels fitting for its star’s larger-than-life persona.

Hendrix has a gift for sussing out who is game for her teasing (one wonders if a woman magician performing without that persona would find the same reception among the audience). Her “magical mixologist” mixes and matches up patrons; on the night I attended, Joe the investment adviser and Skye the theater professor were reborn with a top hat and a fan, respectively, as “Fernando” and “Esmeralda” for a bit. And of course, participants are also asked what they’re drinking (if you frown on glorification of alcohol use, this won’t be your show). 

But no matter how you dress it up, magic is about how well the artist makes you suspend disbelief, and Hendrix nails the “how did she do that?” aspect. She could perform in khakis and a plaid shirt and it would be as impressive. But not as much fun, and definitely not as sparkly. Why go for beer when you can get girl-drink drunk with Lucy Darling?

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