In new show, Chicago Jewish physician finds meaning in magic

Dr. Ricardo Rosenkranz

By Ellen Braunstein, Special to Chicago Jewish News

It’s an evening of theatrical magic sprinkled with thought provoking ideas.

Dr. Ricardo Rosenkranz, a Jewish neonatologist who teaches at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, offers up a one-man, 90-minute production in which he presents truly astounding numbers that will captivate audiences in an intimate, cabaret style setting.

‘The Rosenkranz Mysteries: Physician Magician’ opens at the Royal George Theater on April 3 with previews beginning March 27. The performance builds on Rosenkranz’s sold-out 2016 run and is expected to continue through May. Nearly half of the show is new.

The show highlights what the Chicago Tribune calls Rosenkranz’s “healing power of magic,” with signature pieces and performances brought to the stage to showcase magic that cannot be seen anywhere else.

“Rosenkranz crafts an intelligent and very intimate show that really does probe the connection between magic and medicine,” Chris Jones wrote in a 2016 Tribune review.

Since that run, Rosenkranz has performed on Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us” in Las Vegas and in Hollywood at the Magic Castle. In addition, he has headlined at the Prestigious Magic Circle in London.

Rosenkranz, now 55, is the son of a Hungarian father and Austrian mother who fled the war and met each other in Cuba. His father, a chemist, got a job in Mexico City. As a child growing up in Mexico City, young Ricardo loved magic and opera, but life continued apace and he ended up going to medical school and becoming a doctor in Chicago.

Twenty years ago, he encountered a magic shop in Mexico City that he likes to refer to as a store that time forgot. He bought some illusions and always knew there had to be more than just these first few tricks.

A friend suggested that he meet a great magician living in Chicago. Eugene Burger, a famous mentalist and illusionist, became his mentor and taught him that magic actually has meaning and lesser magicians tend to trivialize it. “Magic can be much more organic and beautiful than disappearing a tiger or pick a card any card. It’s really a much higher art form,” Rosenkranz said.

He began using magic to teach his courses at medical school. He has long been incorporating his illusions into his teaching as a way to help engage students and encourage participation.

“I would do a little magic number and, of course, the students loved it. Then I realized magic can have meaning and I can use it to make a point in every class.” Whether he used a card trick to punctuate a lesson on biostatics or performed a number to underscore an ethical concept, students delighted in his performance.

As an example, he cuts a rope then puts it back together. “That’s really about the ability to put something back together that is broken. It’s about healing, so magic can have a lot of different meanings to it.” He connects magic to the importance of paying attention to the physician/patient relationship.

“Medicine is a communicative performance art and one of the best things we can do as doctors is to see great performances in different art forms and learn how to connect with our patients.”

“There is something beautiful and wonderful about the unknown, and I think in that sense, magic and medicine share a DNA,” Rosenkranz said. “I am committed to creating a unique experience that energizes and uplifts every audience.”

Rosenkranz attended many magic shows starting 18 years ago. He decided that he wanted to make the magical arts more meaningful. “I discovered I do very well with a thinking audience.”

His goal was to put on stage a performance that was “a smart evening, where you could just not have a bunch of laughs but be uplifted.”

It took seven years for him to build up his own show. He acquired a collection of classic props and set pieces not seen in other shows. He performs effects that have been lost over time, but he felt were still relevant. Every illusion has been meticulously researched, created and staged with the nation’s most elite and respected magicians.

“I want every number to bring out a particular emotion in people. I want people to experience that they are the source of the magic and the magic is happening because of them. If anything, I am a witness.”

‘The Rosenkranz Mysteries: Physician Magician’ will be performed from March 27 to May 6 at Royal George Theatre Cabaret, 1641 N. Halsted St., Chicago.  For tickets, call (312) 988-9000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.

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