“That’s chicanery! That’s full chicanery!” the man sitting next to me said on a recent Friday night, right after a magician, Alex Boyce, had pilfered a $20 bill from the man’s closed fist. (That Boyce had supplied the $20 made it go down easier.)
Curated by Todd Robbins, a gentlemanly carnival huckster who sips candle wax as a digestif, and co-hosted by a femme fatale in a trim suit (Whitney Sprayberry, who bills herself as Jack McKittrick), “Speakeasy Magick” is, as Jack puts it, an evening of “lying, cheating, stealing and drinking.” At each performance, as patrons sip expensive cocktails, many of them purple, prestidigitators rove from table to table, performing close-up routines.
Robbins calls it magic speed-dating: “Someone is going to sit down and lie to you for 15 minutes. You’ll never see them again.” Rings disappear, coins reappear, cards find their way into wallets and fruit and under watches. Miracles abound.
The roster of magicians change from night to night and week to week, but you might catch Matthew Holtzclaw’s superb sleight-of-hand, which includes a graceful variation on Chambers’s beer trick, with lit cigarettes conjured, too. On another night, you could see Mark Calabrese’s surly, first-rate card manipulation. (“That’s sadness,” he said, as he demonstrated a complicated shuffle. “That’s loneliness. That’s no friends in high school.”) Or you might chance upon Rachel Wax’s self-deprecating tricks: When a woman chose a card and confirmed that she was happy with her choice, Wax looked at her and said, “What is that even like?”
If you’re very lucky, Boyce, a classically trained actor who looks like a sophisticated preteen, will return to the stage with a jazzy dove act set to “Fly Me to the Moon.” His feathered co-stars: Uno, Airplane, Jake, Cameron and Bebe.
Shared bewilderment, it turns out, can really bring a room together. I’ve seen the show twice now. Each time, tables that began as discrete pairs and trios ended as friends, walking out together into the night — poorer, depending on how many drinks they downed, but giddier, and more mystified.