Review — The Magic Castle

I recently had the privilege and honor to visit The Magic Castle, and being uncultured I had no idea what I was really getting myself into or what to expect. By far, this is the fanciest event I’ve ever been to, with only a couple weddings even approaching.

What I was told (by somebody who had also never been) was that it would be a dining experience with live magic performed right in front of you. It’s also invite only, and the formal dress code is strictly enforced. “Okay,” I thought. “Fancy dinner, sounds cool.”

Well, folks. That is not how I spent my day at all.

As it turns out, The Magic Castle is a lot of things, not just a restaurant. I would describe it as a convention where several live shows are being performed at once in any of several small theaters, and where you can meet and talk to professional magicians. I would describe it as a museum where every painting, every decoration in every hall, has a history that spans decades. A history the seeps through the floorboards so thoroughly that the very atmosphere is an experience all it’s own. The building is so famous that even it’s construction and how it was made is a story all its own. (I can’t emphasize this enough. Even an innocuous, if lavish, bar would be revealed to me as from the set of Hello, Dolly!) But most importantly, it is also a school for magicians—the school for magicians. Basically every famous magician since 1963 has been a part of the building’s history in some form or another.

Suffice to say, I was a bit shocked. There was so much to do, so much to see, and so many people that were all dressed in their best attire that it is a social gathering unlike anything like I’ve ever experienced. To say that I felt out of place would be an understatement. I mean here are all of these high class people that all “know a guy”—because you have to be that type of person to even get through the door! Perhaps not everyone was like that, as I’d imagine there were several people like me, but when even the ground you’re walking upon is worth tens of thousands of dollars, the people that use it must be worth millions. And yet, the things they talked about were pretty normal.

But to say that I was uncomfortable at any point would be unfair. Each of the performances we saw were spectacular in their own, unique ways, and seeing lots of magicians performed showed me a lot about how much charisma can carry you through and enhance a performance. I couldn’t help but try to solve a lot of the tricks, as I imagine it’s only natural to do, and most of the time when I could see their tactics (even if I couldn’t unravel them), it still impressed me with their ability to execute on them every time without messing up.

I found that my favorite performance was not the one that kept me amazed, but the one that kept me laughing the whole time. (For those wondering, it was Mike Pisciotta. Here’s a video of a few of the tricks he showed us, though it isn’t very high res.) He did a great job at telling you what you thought he was doing and then proving you wrong, as well as teaching a bit about the philosophy of magic. It was funny, informative, and impressive all rolled into one, and I found him to be absolutely charming.

It’s hard to really roll up the day all into one post. But I will say this: though my brother and I are very similar people, we both independently had the same thought. As cheesy as it is, there was no word to describe the experience other than simply “Magical”.