Reno-based and world famous magicians Mark Kalin and Jinger Leigh do not qualify as low-budget, as their Halloween show "Ghosts!" demonstrates? Cheesy? Perhaps to a cynic, but to those who throw disbelief out the window and bring their senses of wonder and humor, it's a fun time.
The husband and wife team, who live in Reno, have made a big splash in the world of magic and this show is one of their only local performances. Their on-stage chemistry is evident, at times teetering on the edge of corny but only going so far as a roll-your-eyes chuckle.
As for the magic, Kalin and Jinger don't disappoint. They start the "Ghosts!" show with a traditional trick that entails Jinger being put in a box as Kalin rams flaming spikes through it. He spins the box to prove its authenticity and when he opens it, somehow Jinger has disappeared. She then appears in the audience, unharmed by the burning implements of impalement.
As they promised in an advance interview, Kalin and Jinger's daughter is the guest star in the next trick, in which they claim to shoot a witch from a cannon. Their daughter "volunteers" to be the witch, but she proves to be too large to fit in their cannon. The magicians pull out a device that looks like an old fashioned clothes wringer so they can "sqwitch" her down to size. The pint-sized witch goes in, the crank is turned and out comes a flat version of the little girl. Kalin then stuffs the sqwitched witch into the cannon with a plunger and KABOOM! The witch is invisibly shot out. Seconds later she appears in a box on the other side of the stage.
"These be my witches!" Kalin declares after the trick.
Kalin then kills a few moments with some sleight of hand while the magic is reloaded backstage. He mystifies the audience with a story of a mysterious Chinese box that contains smaller boxes inside. The mystery is how the boxes that were inside suddenly can fit the larger boxes inside them. Hmmmmm.
Then it was time for help from some volunteers to further prove the reality of their magic. With two men from the crowd on stage as witnesses, Jinger is tied up hands, feet and neck inside a box. Kalin then explains that Jinger is to be visited by spirits -- once the box is closed, of course. With the container securely closed and Jinger immobile inside, noises come from within and objects are moved around. When the box is opened, Jinger is still tied up, as confirmed by the volunteers. Then Kalin throws his coat into the closed box and seconds later, Jinger is wearing it with all limbs still bound by scarves. Finally, one of the volunteers is put in the box with Jinger to provide a witness to the phenomenon. Within the count of 10, the spirits manage to throw a cover over the volunteer's head and strip him to his boxers.
After some more sleight of hand magic, Jinger again avoids dismemberment. This time she is in an L-shaped box that comes apart in pieces like a puzzle, making her disappear piece by piece. Following this puzzling trick, Jinger is thoroughly blindfolded and reads playing cards drawn at random by volunteers in a new trick called "The Girl With X-ray Eyes."
In what I thought was the neatest trick of the night, Jinger is levitated between two tall torches with the help of a little boy from the audience. Though she was no doubt aided by the torches on which she always kept at least one hand, I let my disbelief creep in for a moment because it was hard for my logical mind to figure out they pulled it off. That's why they get the accolades and the big bucks, I suppose.
Kalin and Jinger end the show with a music and dance number, letting Jinger strut her stuff (she was a dancer in a show where she met Kalin, who has been into magic since his teen years). The Halloween spirit is inherent in a magic show, which is good since they could have changed the name and a few minor details and performed this routine at any time of year. In keeping with the seasonal spirit of life beyond what we can be logically explained, "Ghosts!" is a great addition.
"Ghosts!" has two remaining performances, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Celebrity Showroom at John Ascuaga's Nugget. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by calling (800) 648-1177 or 356-3300 or by visiting www.janugget.com.