BY VICTORIA BOUCHER — At the Gamestop store on Queens Chapel Road in Hyattsville, there is a sign that reads: “Bring Magic Into Your Home.” Joe Largess, who works there part-time while majoring in Fine Arts at the University of Maryland, helps people do just that.
His other job: putting on magic shows at private parties in homes and offices. He performed a few tricks at my own holiday party in December. I served as spectator, a professional term I interpret to mean “stupefied dupe.” (I still can’t figure out where in his sleeve he could have stashed such things as a huge brass battery!)
Expertly supported by his charming partners, Monday Banana (aka Nicole Riley) and Charlie the Rabbit, his shows delight children and adults with baffling effects and sleight of hand. Children may participate and some are given magic wands to wave at the critical moment.
Charlie, though a favorite with children, is not invited to corporate events.
Largess explains, “These usually center on financial issues, and I’m called upon to perform tricks using money. Charlie will not hesitate to eat it.”
In fact, even at other events Charlie must be used sparingly and towards the end of the show because he is a shameless scene-stealer. Charlie has an understudy named Peter, who turned out to be female after suddenly producing a litter of baby bunnies. Abracadabra!
Largess’s fascination with prestidigitation began at age 4, when he was given a set called “Houdini’s 50 tricks.” As he could not yet read, he was fortunate that his Granddad Largess was an accomplished amateur magician who helped him learn the tricks. His budding craft wasn’t considered appropriate for talent shows at St. Jerome School, so he gave his first presentation to classmates at DeMatha High School.
After graduation, he found a mentor, Barry Francis Taylor, someone he describes as “a master magician, a genuinely great performer and an all-around great guy.” Taylor hired him to work in his magic shop, and then taught him more sophisticated lore and theatrical values. In time, Taylor found venues for Largess and his partners and they were on their way.
A painter and sculptor, Largess also creates posters and props for shows and does imaginative face painting at children’s events.
I asked Largess what had proved his greatest challenge. He told me about a bizarre stipulation in the will of a recently deceased fan: that Largess cheer up mourners at the funeral with a magic show. The challenge was to come up with something that would be related to the event and “entertaining but not offensive.”
He devised a routine involving the resurrection of a mummy puppet, as well as The Five Treasures of Life demonstration, in which worldly treasures such as beauty and success vanish in a poof while death is reserved as a treasure bestowed when most needed. To his relief, the act was well received.
For a sample of Joe’s work, just call him at 240.413.6134. He can do a trick for you over the telephone.