‘Is this your card?’ ‘Physician Magician’ heals, mystifies


Richard Faverty

‘Is this your card?’ ‘Physician Magician’ heals, mystifies

By Miranda Manier

“There’s something I have to tell you.”

 I said this to the turned back of Dr. Ricardo Rosenkranz, the self-titled “Physician Magician” on the evening of April 26. Even though I was seated behind him, returning a deck of cards to its box after selecting my favorite, I could tell he was surprised. 

“And what would that be?”

“I’m a journalist reviewing your show.”

The audience burst into laughter, and I grinned, shaking the box of cards in my hand with a small, sheepish shrug.

“Well, I think after this trick, you’re going to write a great review.”

It was my turn to laugh; however, the Physician Magician did not disappoint. 

Not only did he correctly guess my card, but he also  included the trick in a thoughtful narrative he was weaving about life, love and ethics.

For instance, this card trick, unlike most others, was about empathy, according to Rosenkranz. He had me describe a scene after selecting my card and used details that I included, like the colors of a passing boat, to deduce details about my card. The lettering on the boat’s side was white, not black, allegedly giving him a hint about the color of my card.

This was how most of Rosenkranz’s tricks went during “The Rosenkranz Mysteries,” running at The Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted St., through May 6. One trick that he admittedly flubbed, in which he encouraged an audience member to blindly solve a Rubik’s Cube in under five seconds, was a lesson in chaos and order.

Another trick that involved three audience members silently counting to random numbers that ended  up being the combination to a locked safe that had sat on stage the whole show, inside of which was a piece of paper with the three numbers written on it, was about getting in tune with another person’s natural rhythm. 

While these themes could have come off as preachy in less capable hands, with Rosenkranz as the mouthpiece, they felt like a well-executed TED Talk. As a licensed medical practitioner and a professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, he was able to tie magic and medicine together in a way that felt effortless, not forced.

Some moments of the show were awkward, such as when audience members could tell a sleight of hand was being pulled, even if they weren’t sure what it was. For instance, the Rubik’s Cube trick had Rosenkranz fumbling with a layered cube, with a trick shell that was fit over the  unsolved squares.

For the most part, though, things went off without a hitch. One dazzling moment was when a woman opened a box of alphabet blocks to display gibberish one moment, then opened it to reveal the blocks spelling out her dream vacation destination—Greece—that she had just announced out loud moments earlier.

The last trick of the night, called Ricardo’s Thread, was indeed the final thread in Rosenkranz’s narrative. He told the story of how Eugene Burger, the mentor and friend he had credited throughout the show for his relationship with magic, was diagnosed—by Rosenkranz—with terminal cancer and passed away in June 2017.

As Rosenkranz unspooled his eponymous thread, slicing it into pieces by lowering it over a candlestick and then seemingly mending it back together, he explained that though our lives are  messy and complicated, and though it might take some effort to see and believe, there is a beauty—a magic, even—in each one.