The Spook Show, Starring Cardone

I realized two long standing goals last night.

First, many, many months after it first open, I finally got to check out the Canal Park Playhouse, an amazing space located in one of Manhattan’s oldest buildings, an 1828 Federal style structure, erected on landfill on what was once the edge of the Hudson river! The company has constantly been on my radar because they are devoted to presenting small scale (one and two hander) variety arts productions, i.e., shows of clowning, magic, juggling, acrobats, and the like. So I will inevitably be recommending their productions as I have been (Chris McDaniel did his solo show their a few months ago; Avner the Eccentric has one coming up). I won’t lie to ya, though. It’s a bit of a trek…as far west as you can go on Canal Street. I hope they are doing some aggressive local marketing, because convincing audiences to make that jaunt will be a job of salesmanship.

Secondly, I finally got to see Cardone’s spook show The House of Ghostly Haunts, which has been playing every Tuesday at the Canal Park Playhouse since March. (I timed my visit, as you’ll notice for the Hallowe’en season, when I can’t get enough of such stuff.) And Cardone’s show was well calibrated to my personal aesthetics. It’s a family show, about the ritual of scariness without descending into depravity and sickness. Actually it’s a kind of hybrid of magic show, sideshow and spook show, with a little vaudeville and dime museum thrown in. He starts out by swallowing and regurgitating razor blades, presents a time machine illusion (wherein the volunteer is seen to age 200 years into the future into a skull mask), levitates a table bearing the “actual” sunglasses of Elvis Presley, performs a terrific ventriloquist routine which doubles as a card trick (this may be his tour de force), and places his head into a deadly guillotine (I won’t tell you if he actually gets decapitated.) The climax of the show is the spookiest part, as the lights go out and we are treated to a spectacle of “real” ghosts.

At intermission, Cardone gives us a special treat…a guided tour of his miniature dime museum, which features such artifacts as a two-headed bat, some real dirt from the actual Dracula’s castle (with photo documentation for provenance), a shrunken head, and a real human skull, among other items.

Of course you know all this appeals to me. The best part about Cardone’s act though (as has been said before) may be his patter. He is great at engaging with the audience (“What do you think about that?” is his catchphrase), and he weaves in an appreciation for live theatre and art, and a fond reminiscence of his grandfather, from whom he learned to love magic.

What would I love to see more of? Music! We have neglected Cardone’s most distinctive element, his rockabilly persona (with his slick-backed hair and mustache, he resembles “D Day” from Animal House.) He alludes in the program to touring the world as a musician. How about some of THAT in the act, Cardone? Then we’ll really be talking vaudeville!

Above all, I recommend this show for people with kids.  It’s hip enough to entertain adults, and safe (and in a weird, way, educational) enough for the young ones.

For tix and info go to canalparkplayhouse.com

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