The Chicago Magic Lounge has a dual identity, and if one comes early to a show, they have the privilege in witnessing both sides. Magicians tend bar while hobbyists and hangers-on chat loudly about their own illusions, their own connections with “big names” in the magic world. Little jokes are made for the purpose of dropping names, and all at a volume intended to let everyone hear but not everyone understand. This bar is not a land for the casual attendee, this is where the diehards reign. That being said, there is a universal appeal here as well- in a venue that one goes through a fake laundromat entrance to access, this is only another sign that you have been accepted into a deliciously secret space, with tantalizing rumors abound.
But let yourself be ushered into the performance space, and your experience develops in a whole different way. Because while the Lounge itself may have two faces, Artist in Residence Luis Carreon is a man utterly secure in his own identity, and eager to invite his audience into experiencing it. This is the identity the Lounge thrives in sharing, the showmanship talent they have done so well cultivating.
Carreon’s pet schtick in his show La Bestia is, to be blunt, his ethnicity. Tricks and jokes alike are formed primarily around his Mexican background. This tactic lends a sense of cohesion to a show where otherwise the stream of tricks would seem picked at random, a collection of standard coin, card and similar familiar effects. However, a well-constructed persona can color a show, but cannot serve as the sole narrative, which Carreon seems to attempt. Carreon delights and charms the audience with ease through his authenticity. A smidge more confidence would seem to be all he needs to free him from overplaying his history and allow him to integrate it into a more developed narrative to build his show around.
Ultimately, Carreon is a talented performer who lacks only a little polish and experience. His comedic timing is clever and refreshing – when he lets it be. Carreon’s audience is captivated by every joke he lets breathe. He need only to stop overfilling his performance with any joke, trick, and pop culture reference he can think of, to stop throwing material at the wall hoping it will stick. The material that the audience gets time and space to absorb does stick, and spectacularly so.
Luis Carreon is a charming performer, and faultlessly adept at sleight of hand. While La Bestia may be at moments bloated with material, one gets the sense that this is because Carreon is so in love with his art that he cannot imagine not sharing his favourite parts of it with his crowd. This openness and delight with communicating the magic of magic wins his audience to him, and deservedly so. La Bestia is an experience well worth attending, and one that will likely only get better each time.
More information on Carreon and his performance dates can be found here.