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Washington Magic brings old-school magic to life with humorous charm

The Arts Club of Washington is located in a gorgeous Victorian mansion just off of Foggy Bottom circle. On Feb. 24, after entering through an arched door frame, we were greeted by silver-plattered food on one side and a bar on the other. We couldn’t resist picking from the assortment of macarons at the dessert table and asking for two soft drinks.

We made our way through another door to enter the performance chamber, where a small wooden stage stood in front of several round tables, already buzzing with show-goers. We sat among old friends, new acquaintances, young couples, and happy families, who enchanted the room with lively conversation and infectious laughter. As the lights dimmed and our host, David Morey, took to the stage with a flourish, we set sail on an evening of magic.

Hosted regularly in the historic Arts Club of Washington, Washington Magic honors the Victorian tradition of stage and parlor, featuring drinks, dinner, and some D.C. power players as the evening’s performers. The cast featured David Morey, Eric Hennings, Savino Recine, Chris McCauley, and John McLaughlin. Morey and Hennings both performed for the Obama family; Savino is a top D.C. restaurateur; McCauley has owned his own Magic School for over 20 years. We unfortunately did not get to see McLaughlin, former deputy and acting director of the CIA.


The show started on an interesting note—an extremely patriotic introductory act where the “glorious” history of America was told to us through the magic trick of pulling the American flag out of a tube, formed from ribbons of red, white and blue. Think along the lines of “this glorious land really is the land of the free.” Neither of us are American citizens, so we felt somewhat out-of-touch with the sentiment behind the trick, but the rapturous applause told us that the rest of the room was on board with the show from the very start. Meanwhile, I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be, and I thought I had an idea of how the trick was done.

Yet underlying this initial patriotic sentiment was a theme that all of us could get behind: the importance of restoration and unity. This theme was relevant throughout much of the show, and we were even chosen to take the stage to participate in magic tricks exploring this theme.At this point, David Morey instructed Kristy to rip tissue paper into many, many pieces and pass them back to him. Before my very eyes, with some vigorous rubbing of his palms, Morey produced a lovely purple and blue bucket hat from the broken paper that Kristy had handed him.With this clever trick, my initial apprehension began subsiding.

Near the end of the show, Morey picked me from the crowd despite my internal prayers: “Please not me, please not me.” My stomach lurched when he held out his hand to me, but the magician did clarify that he needed a “good-looking young person” to help him out—a source of flattery that I welcomed amidst my terror. On stage, I was determined to figure out the secret behind whatever trick I was going to partake in. Morey handed me a paper napkin and told me to unfold it, and like Kristy, rip it into many pieces. On instruction, I rolled the pieces into a ball and blew on my hands. Morey then told me to “unfold the piece in my hand.” To my shock and awe, a fully intact (albeit crumpled up) napkin sat in my hands, no trace of its destruction to be seen; it was as if I had never torn it up to begin with. Any skepticism I had regarding the magic definitively dissolved in that moment; I genuinely have no idea how this trick was done. Maybe it really was magic.

Courtesy of Washington Magic David Morey performs a magic trick with the help of Gabriel MendozaCourtesy of Washington Magic


What remains doubtless, however, is that Washington Magic unapologetically celebrates the wonder of live entertainment. “Clap for yourselves! You’re not at home watching Netflix!” Morey proudly declared time and time again to the sound of delighted applause. The charms of live performance permeated the show, with every audience interaction, minor slip-up, and bit of banter infusing the experience with amusement.

In a moment of refreshing authenticity, magician Eric Hennings almost tripped on a step before catching himself. The audience let out a gasp before he seamlessly blended the moment into the show, lifting his arms for applause after regaining balance. A lady sitting behind us—who presumably made ample use of the open bar—released a booming laughter that shook the room, emanating raw contagious joy.

The audience was just as much a part of the show as the magicians, who often plucked members from the crowd to incorporate into their acts—attendance entailed an inescapable casting call.

“All of us have a child within us,” Morey said as he approached where we were sitting, “Some of us are not too far from it.” In front of the audience, I tore apart a piece of colorful tissue paper before handing it back to Morey. He held the scrunched-up paper tightly in his fist and asked me to choose a magic word. “Abracadabra,” I announced. In a few seconds, the audience was chanting “abracadabra” in unison as I vigorously flicked my hands at Morey’s fist per his instruction. Very slowly, he opened his palm to reveal a rainbow hat embellished with a flower, made from the very same tissue paper I just tore. “You’re a magician,” Morey determined as he placed the hat on my head. “Just believe.”

Back in my seat, I inspected the hat over and over, but could not figure out the trick. I remembered Morey’s opening remarks—a quote from Albert Einstein: “Let magic remind us that reality could change in a moment.” Keeping this in mind, my inspection ceased; what is the harm in a little suspension of disbelief?

Hennings began his final act by telling a story of a long, long time ago, somewhere far, far away. He told the audience that we needed to grab colors from the rainbow and throw them onto a blank sheet. One by one, the audience grabbed at the air and committed full-swing throwing motions. Hennings took a pause, gave the sheet a wave, and revealed it to spontaneously be full of color. The lady behind us let out another reverberant chuckle.

In a room full of adults, Washington Magic ignited childlike wonder. The magic was not just in the hands of the magicians; it was a collective creation. A respite from the predictability of everyday life, the show served as a reminder to dream, to laugh, and to infuse the mundane with a sprinkle of magic. A sparkling celebration of imagination, it was a treat to attend.