Carney Magic – Variety Nights at North Coast Repertory Theatre

Magic has enthralled audiences of all ages throughout the ages. Kings and queens commissioned magicians, and everyone likes a card trick. The Magic Castle is a members-only institution in Hollywood where magicians from around the globe come to ply their trade. The Magic Castle has awarded John Carney more awards than anyone in their history, and for two nights North Coast Repertory Theatre attendees were able to see why.

As part of the “Variety Nights” series, Carney returned to NCRT and delivered an amazing evening that left the audience bewildered. Balls disappeared in and out of hats, fish bowls (with water and fish) disappeared, cards were shuffled, lost and found. Carney’s patter combines clever word play and humor, which undoubtedly works to both engage and distract the audience.

At one point midway through the evening Carney took on the persona of Mr. Mysto, a slightly off kilter but no less talented magician. That change of character allowed the slightly crazed side of the mild-mannered Carney to take flight. At one point Mr. Mysto whipped up a batch of cake mix and poured the glop into one of the audience member’s shoes. Who the hapless audience member got his shoe back, it instead had a cupcake with a lit candle in it. The delayed applause was only because of the collective bewilderment.

Carney adeptly used the “Moon Over Buffalo” set for his performance. Carney’s sleight of hand virtuosity was in full effect. He tried to deconstruct the famous three card monte scams, as well as the pigeon drop. The latter was famously assayed in “The Sting,” and involves relieving the mark of dollar bills. Carney patiently counted out dollar bills with another hapless audience assistant, and we all watched as the eleven dollar bills became ten and then thirteen, but ultimately there were fewer dollar bills than when the scam started.

Carney has appeared on “Late Night with David Letterman” and the “Jerry Seinfeld HBO Special,” as well as numerous other TV appearances as an actor. He has written several books, sharing his ideas and techniques. His live performances have taken him around the world, and many luck folks were able to see him in his two night stand in North County San Diego.


Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.