Enchantment and illusion at Pleasant Home

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By Doug Deuchler

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I did not see Jeanette Andrews' show last year at Pleasant Home, which was completely sold out for most of the run. But the other night I attended her latest thrilling program of magic and illusion, (IN)VISIBLE. Let me just say, this is quite a unique entertainment experience, a one-of-a-kind evening, to be sure.

The large 30-room Prairie School mansion, "Pleasant Home," located at the corner of Pleasant & Home in Mills Park in Oak Park, designed in 1897 by architect George W. Maher, makes the perfect setting for an evening of mystery and enchantment. Upon arrival, guests are led to various rooms where audience-participation experiences await them. I was taken to the library for some brief activities involving the sense of smell. After a while, my group was led from that room into the huge grand parlor, but we were never able to see the other half of the audience since a large black curtain divided the group in half. This was all highly mysterious. 

We were then requested to don black blindfolds. The lights were dimmed while ominous-sounding New Age music provided a rather creepy, frankly, soundtrack for the events unfolding. Soon we removed our eye coverings and met our lovely illusionist, Jeanette Andrews, who is 26. According to her press releases she began performing magic at age 4 for her preschool class after she was inspired by watching Siegfried and Roy on television. At age 6 she had her first paying gig. Andrews has quite a following now, presenting her shows everywhere from museums to corporate events.

Ms. Andrews is not like the old school illusionists in the male-dominated, hocus-pocus world where magicians in tuxedos pulled rabbits out of top hats and sawed women in half in front of passive audiences. Andrews is chatty, charming, and clearly very talented. Her illusions also rely heavily on audience participation. Many of her tricks are very interactive.

This is not a Las Vegas spectacular with fire and tigers and daring escapes. But her minimalist show is nevertheless bedazzling and impressive. Andrews incorporates her passion for science with various sensory tricks. Her show is out-of-the-box in terms of what people might traditionally expect from a magic performance. She crafts her performances with art, philosophy, and psychology. Andrews performs illusions involving the audience members' blind spots, dream telepathy, and various sensory experiences. Her science angle might be especially appealing to teenage audience members. Andrews clarifies what she's doing and what we're experiencing as it unfolds. I was especially fascinated by activities that Helen Keller did with a Dr. Tinley in the 1920s. Miss Keller said, "Smell is a potent wizard."

Jeanette Andrews' contemplative show (IN)VISIBLE, An Illusory Performance, was elegant and entertaining. The audience the night I attended seemed to have a great time. And if you've never before visited Pleasant Home, although you don't get to see a lot of of the stately old mansion, it is magically lit and provides a lovely, appropriately eerie setting for this special show.

Tickets cost $30. Phone 708-383-2654 for reservations, which are required.

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James West  

Posted: April 27th, 2016 9:55 AM

Doug Deuchler, you are easily amazed, and obviously have never been to the Magic Castle. There are absolutely amazing magicians working, although they are working bigger venue's, and they are not working with Tiger's, or any stage props. If you do get an interest in Magic, you can visit Magic Inc., in Chicago.

Heidi Ruehle-May from Oak Park  

Posted: April 27th, 2016 7:36 AM

Thanks Doug for attending Jeanette's show and for the wonderful (and accurate) review! - Heidi Ruehle-May, Pleasant Home Foundation Executive Director

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