To neonatologist and magician Ricardo Rosenkranz, belief is the golden thread that connects two of his life’s greatest pursuits.
“Magicians hear the word impossible, and that’s where we start,” Rosenkranz said. “In medicine, every illness, big or small, carries risk that you won’t be able to make it and sometimes ‘impossible to heal’ might be something that either you hear or sits there in everything. So the medical profession is about impossibility. I think the most magical thing about belief in medicine is belief that the person that’s there is going to take science and apply it as best as they can for you. Seeing magicians do impossible things give people hope, and hope and empowerment help us move forward.”
The medicine came before the magic for the “physician magician.” It wasn’t until Rosenkranz was in his 30s that he began his pursuit of prestidigitation in his native Mexico. His interest deepened when he moved to Chicago to complete his pediatric residency and met legendary magician, historian and philosopher Eugene Burger.
“I learned from Eugene that magic was just so much more than tricks, that there was this meaning and that meaning was powerful,” said Rosenkranz. “Some people in their 30s and 40s, they get cars and see psychiatrists. I saw Eugene. And so I learned magic, and that’s how I got started.”
Rosenkranz incorporated magic into his classes as a professor at Northwestern University and moonlighted performing his magic stage show, “The Rosenkranz Mysteries.” In 2022, when a historic Rogers Park theater was put up for sale, Rosenkranz seized the chance to transform it into the Rhapsody Theater, a showcase for magic and cabaret performance. He said the theater’s accessibility and character made it the perfect fit for shows like his, and he hopes the refreshed theater will attract more performances to Morse Avenue.
“I’m a big believer that the art has to come to the neighborhoods,” Rosenkranz said, “that we shouldn’t all have to go to the Loop to get culture.”
In his new show, “Physician Magician,” Rosenkranz pulls inspiration from his own life as the grandchild of European immigrants to Mexico, as well as his career as a physician and professor, to create an enchanting new spectacle.
“COVID being the very difficult time for everybody that it was, I feel that sometimes people come to theater to forget,” Rosenkranz said, “but sometimes people come to theater to remember and process. And so the theme for this particular show is loss. Magic is about transformation, and life is about transformation, and that is what I’ve put in this show.”
It also gives Rosenkranz the opportunity to offer another nod to his Mexican upbringing — Sunday performances of his show in Spanish.
“The ‘Physician Magician’ will be called ‘El Medico Mago,’” he said. “I’m Mexican. I grew up in Mexico, I fell in love with medicine in Mexico. I fell in love with magic in Mexico, and I need to do a show in Spanish that celebrates that and gives people an authentic performance in their first language — my first language.”
“Physician Magician” runs at the Rhapsody Theater through April 2, with performances of “El Mago Medico” every Sunday at 2 p.m.