Kayla Drescher conjures up plenty of entertaining feats throughout ‘Magic in Heels’
Drescher, who sometimes leaves the stage to select audience assistants — is a sorcerer with a stage presence that’s irresistible.
As the title indicates, Kayla Drescher’s enchanting “Magic in Heels” eradicates a few magician cliches. It’s an evening of amazing magic (plus a bit of compelling storytelling and skillful comedy) at the Chicago Magic Lounge performed not by a gent with a wand and top-hat, but by a woman striding the stage in height-elevating footwear.
Toward the close of the hour-long performance, Drescher taps an audience member to help her tell a classic love story.There are no words exchanged as the two sit side by side onstage, just some crinkly paper that they cut into hearts before ripping to shreds. It’s a tale as old as time — love, breakup, reunion, happily-ever-after. But in this story, Drescher makes the audience see broken hearts literally become whole again. Almost. In this illusion, broken hearts are mended but altered. It’s quietly spectacular.
It’s also a moment that encapsulates Drescher’s strengths, which are showcased in the Magic Lounge’s intimate Blackstone Cabaret, a 107-seat venue where guests gather at cocktail tables where they can imbibe in themed drinks or “light bites” from the kitchen. (There’s no two-drink minimum. That said, my companion told me “How Houdini Died” is the perfect rum concoction for a freezing Chicago night.)
When: Through March 30
Where: Chicago Magic Lounge, 5050 N. Clark St.
Tickets: $45- $50
Run-time: One hour 45 minutes, no intermission (including 45 minutes of table magic that begins before the main show)
NOTE: For COVID safety policies, visit the website.
Drescher, who sometimes leaves the stage to select audience assistants — is a sorcerer with a stage presence that’s irresistible. And while “Magic In Heels” doesn’t break any uncharted territory in the realms of prestidigitation, she’s one of the best visiting artists to grace the intimate Andersonville venue since it opened in 2018.
The best magicians are those who can trick the audience into believing it is in control when in fact it’s being carefully manipulated by the artist on stage. We all know deep down that Drescher can’t possibly be reading minds or teleporting matter from inside a wallet into a piece of fruit. But she’s so charming that when the same person pulls the same card from the same deck for the fourth time, you believe that someone involved has supernatural powers.
Such is the strength of magicians who can make audiences believe in their own agency, when they know the artist on stage is actually controlling everything from onset to outcome.
Drescher’s brilliant at the necessary deceptions that magic requires. Who among us hasn’t learned that often, the best way to get your idea implemented is to make somebody else believe it was all their idea to begin with?Drescher has the crowd in her palm, whether she’s reading minds about their latest obsessions or having them fill in random digits to create an equation that yields an eerily specific cellphone number.
She’s also a solid stand-up comedian and compelling storyteller, crucial skills for any magician. The illusions of “Magic in Heels” (Drescher claims she wanted “Magic in Pajamas,” but somebody else thought of it first.) are woven into stories. The paper hearts duet unfolds after Drescher’s recollection of a college heartbreak. A bit that’s part “The Dating Game” and part “Let’s Make a Deal” is rooted in her small-town childhood, where Walmart and the town gazebo were among the hottest date-night spots.
The show could use some tightening. The aforementioned autobiographical illusion has a long set-up that doesn’t pay off quite enough. An illusion involving gift cards and scrunchies is amazing in the end, but to get there, you have to believe a live performance artist would still have dozens of gift cards for food and goods after 2020’s annihilation of any industry involving live performance.
Drescher’s elegant, commanding stage presence is powerful enough to overcome the show’s minimal flaws. Frankly, any who can tell whether someone’s deeply into “Yellowjackets” or crocheting or “Stargate” just by looking at their (masked) face deserves flowers, magic or otherwise.
Ditto that business with the paper hearts, which Drescher performed with Teller on Penn and Teller’s “Fool Us.” If you’re looking for a sure-fire Valentine’s Day date-night, “Magic in Heels” is just about perfect. And if you are among those of us look askance at the whole Valentine’s Day Industrial Complex, know that the show will charm, confound and allure at any time.
Note: Make sure to arrive early, when house magicians perform up-close magic right at your table and at the bar. Luis Carrion and Justin Purcell were among those on duty opening night. Both continue to astound and — believe it — vividly illustrate just how deep the talent pool runs in the Magic Lounge’s ensemble.