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Liberty Magic’s Spotlight on the ‘Burgh Continues with Big Laughs, Mentalism and Daring Tricks 


Liberty Magic continues its annual Spotlight on the Burgh series this week, featuring local Pittsburgh magicians to conclude Liberty’s magical season. For its second week, Spotlight on the Burgh again featured comedic magician Michael Mistow, who helped open the series in week one and was joined by John Tai and Shane Patrick Crews. The three men took center stage for an opening bit that set up the central theme for the show and established each magician’s unique personality. Tai is calm and articulate, Mistow is high energy, funny, and even raunchy (he describes his act as “low brow humor”), and Crews is observant, pensive, and deliberate. 

After the initial set-up for the show, Tai remains on stage for his first trick. Audiences may remember Tai from his 2022 Road Signs residency at Liberty Magic. He returns to Spotlight by combining his unique blend of psychological magic and illusion to engage the audience in a detailed trick involving a single dollar bill. Tai’s opener is arguably the most challenging and thought-provoking trick of the evening, which he executes with poise and eloquence. Later in the show, Tai returns for a coin trick involving mind reading and psychological manipulation. Can we be prompted to think about a particular word? Does the content or images we consume resonate in our subconscious and influence a later decision? Tai challenges these notions as he attempts to guess what an audience member is thinking and where they have concealed his coin. 

Tai’s relaxed tone, pace, and the ease with which he executes his tricks relaxes the audience before Misko’s high-octane performance. He opens his first set with the same comedic tricks from week one of Spotlight but introduces a new trick, “Golden Balls,” for week two. This trick requires four male audience participants and is packed with fun, humor, improv, and, of course, a bit of magic. Misko plays to Tai’s style of psychological magic as he attempts to discern which of the three participants is lying and which is telling the truth in a series of personal yet hilarious questions. For his second set, Misko revives his daring and self-proclaimed “stupid” (due to the level of danger) knife and card trick that he flawlessly executed in week one of Spotlight… Misko does not disappoint once again as he once again defies the odds and not only does not get hurt but also delivers a dramatic finish. I can confidently say that even after seeing the trick twice, I am no closer to guessing how it is executed. I suppose it’s simply magic. 

Crews presents as the wild card in this set. Quiet and unassuming, Crews takes the stage initially with a Lazy Susan adorned with four white Styrofoam cups, a lemon, and a spike. Originally from Virginia, Crews integrates a passionate tale of his life story, a tale of a love of magic, chance encounters, regrets, and being a fool into his tricks. Still, it is one with a clear path to achieving his dreams. He presents his tricks with an immense amount of heart intertwined in the magic. A mentalist, Crews’ tricks are both visually engaging and profoundly thought-provoking. 

Select audience members received a card upon arrival, which asked them to write their answers to a few questions. There was some brief demographic information, questions about our favorite memories, fun facts about us, and what we would ask a psychic. Before the show’s beginning, the cards were seemingly locked in a box. We never see the cards again, but I will say that Crews looked me square in the eyes and said, “I feel as though I need to say ‘MmmBop’ to you,” referring to my favorite memory of when I chased down one-third of the late 90s group, Hanson, outside of their downtown hotel. Regardless of how he knew my story, his interaction made for another core memory of my favorite memory. 

The three magicians returned to the stage for a finale that brings the theme presented in the opening scene full circle and calls into question the difference between influence and choice. The three very different magicians cleverly blend their craft stylistically so that the finale makes sense and seems relevant to each of the individual performances. As Tai taught us in his previous residency, magic has no roadmap. The audience has no idea where their journey will lead them. The ongoing element of surprise is the ultimate payoff, and Tai, Mistow, and Crews craft a journey that is well worth the trip. 


Pittsburgh Cultural Trust presents Liberty Magic Spotlight on the ‘Burgh, week two runs throuh Sunday the 26th followed by new “episodes” each Wednesday through Sunday, to June 2nd, 2024. Tickets at: