Tricks and treats
Halloween candy, like youth, is wasted on the young. You get 12 or 13 years at most before adults start giving you suspicious looks and saying, “Aren’t you a little old for this?” So what’s a grownup to do for fun during the scary season? Well, if you can’t have the treats, then you might as well enjoy the tricks, and one place to start is Magic Underground’s third annual production of Ghosts!
As with other Magic Underground shows, Ghosts! owes much to its intimate, colorful setting. Decorated with old-time magic memorabilia and strategically dim lighting, the small lobby has a cozily exotic feel that sets the mood, and the framed art deserves a closer look before you head for your seat. Inside the theater, wall hangings inspired by vintage poster art lend additional ambience. The close-up seating allows the audience to watch carefully to try and figure out how the magic is done.
The show is a blend of the modern and the traditional; some illusions rely on clever contraptions, while others are classics of sleight-of-hand. “Flames and Spikes” is one of the former and is exactly what it sounds like: The lovely Jinger climbs into a small metal cage, which is then impaled with a fearsome-looking set of burning metal spikes wielded by her partner, Kalin. “Billiard Balls” is classic sleight-of-hand; Kalin silently makes a series of white balls appear, multiply and disappear without the aid of any bells or whistles. Another impressive routine involves joining three volunteers’ rings so that they’re linked together in a chain, which is then taken through the room so the audience (and the volunteers) can get a closer look. Long after the show, my date and I were still trying to puzzle out the solution—always a sign of a successful trick.
Some of the illusions—and much of Kalin and Jinger’s banter (they’re a husband-and-wife team)—will be familiar to those who have seen the show Real Magic before. Even for those who haven’t, it can be a bit jarring when Kalin stops the show to plug other Magic Underground events. And the show probably could have done without two separate versions of the sawing-a-lady-in-half trick, although only one involves an audience member. Yes, there is audience participation, but only from willing volunteers. If you’d rather just be an observer, you won’t be plucked out of your seat against your will.
Parents will be pleased to hear that Ghosts! is family-friendly and appropriate for all ages. But even the later evening show doesn’t deliver the thrills and chills that its name suggests. In fact, the assistants’ costumes and one trick involving a somewhat hokey ghost story are the only nods to its Halloween theme. And, at just under an hour, it’s a pretty short show, which keeps kids from getting fidgety but may leave adult audiences wishing for more for their 14 bucks.
If you’re looking for something a little different this Halloween—or you’ve finally been 86ed from your neighborhood trick-or-treat route—Ghosts! offers a sugar-free, all-ages alternative. But if you’re looking for a real scare, you might be better off just reading the nutritional information on those fun-size candy bars.