Savino Recine has invited a couple on stage inside the Arts Club of Washington and asked them to close their eyes. The chef-turned-magician who operated Primi Piatti next door for 30 years isn't into traditional magic tropes like never-ending scarves and disappearing rabbits. Instead he's out to prove "we're all connected" by performing a series of experiments with the volunteers. If Recine taps the man on the shoulder, the woman reports feeling it too, even though they can't see anything.
Recine's next trick on Saturday night flopped. He had to abandon it after a particularly lengthy set-up, but the crowd was forgiving. Many of them were aspiring magicians themselves or magic fans who come to every Washington Magic show.
Like Recine, attendee Dr. Krishan Mathur is enjoying practicing magic in retirement. "I did magic for my patients who were coming for chemotherapy," says the former oncologist. "I did card tricks and coin tricks with them. When I retired, I starting learning magic at the McBride Magic & Mystery school in Las Vegas."
Mathur continues to perform for children and is now studying tricks that can fool adults too. "There is a profound relationship between magic and medicine," he says. "They’re both a wonder."
Recine and David Morey began their monthly show, Washington Magic, less than a year ago. $65 tickets include dinner, an open bar, and the show. For $10 more, those who really want to be pulled on stage can reserve front row seats. Saturday's dinner was a Thanksgiving preview of sorts, with turkey and all the trimmings. Every show the pair has presented has sold out so far. The evenings run from 6:30 p.m. until about 9:30 p.m. and tickets are available here.
Recine and Morey typically perform at each show, in addition to a guest magician or two. Saturday featured Eric Henning, while the next show on Dec. 20 stars former Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin.
Magic has become something of a salve for those with high stress jobs, if the former chef, former oncologist, and former intelligence official are to be believed. "With all this political turmoil we have in Washington, believe me, magic is much needed," Recine says.
Recine is self-taught, and he's been experimenting with magic since he was 10. Eventually, he sought to incorporate his hobby into his profession. "How can I perform at the restaurant without bothering people?" he asked himself, noting that Primi Piatti was often full of business diners. "You don't want to go over there and say, 'Pick a card!' It might be a little awkward."
Instead, Recine introduced a seven-course dinner where he'd perform between plates. "It was the best thing I've ever done," he says. "We were booked, six or seven months in advance." The Italian restaurant closed in 2016 and was replaced by Aperto.
Now that his sole focus is magic, Recine is working on tricks that take months, even years to perfect. "There's a little kid in each one of us," Recine says. "People want to believe magic exists.