How many ways is there to say that an entertainment is “mind blowing”? Those words have become an overstated shorthand for an audience experience all too rare in an age when each of us has been ground through too many plots that build to too many feeble twists: that feeling of having been utterly fooled. That realization that we’re manipulable, that our perceptions aren’t to be trusted, that maybe all that we assume to be true isn’t as settled as we think. I felt this twice during Nothing to Hide, Helder Guimarães and Derek DelGaudio’s joyous, marvelous sleight-of-hand and card-trick show.
In lengthy, shapely set pieces, the duo — a Portuguese master magician who’s won many international wards and an Angeleno with his own well-studded CV and a gift for abstract post-post-modernism — offer up card tricks designed to fool people who believe they have seen it all before. This is conceptual magic, usually a leap or two ahead of what you’re expecting. One lesson of reigning what’s-up-his-sleeve? king Ricky Jay’s Off-Broadway shows was that the card artist knows at all times where the key cards have been shuffled; Guimarães and DelGaudio take this to a thrilling extreme — in the first moments, they make clear that no matter what is done to a deck, they’re in command of every single card’s placement throughout an entire shuffle.
As viewers, marks, rubes, or whatever guys like this think their audience is, we’re primed to anticipate the seemingly impossible: In the opening, the two take turns pulling face-down cards from what seems a thoroughly randomized deck, and each man’s draw, of course, is sequential, one card higher in a particular suit. The performers work amusing and impressive variations on this trick, but always save one last dazzling reveal, often only presented as an afterthought. In this case, the revelation is what’s happened to the seemingly chaotic pile of cards they’ve pulled from. A woman sitting behind me actually shouted, “What the fuck?”
Charming and funny, the magicians address us in a circuitous meta-patter, often talking semi-coherent boilerplate about “chance” with key words set to relate to the next trick. Scraps of this are witty, but it’s hard not to miss Jay’s forceful mansplaining of sleight-of-hand history, especially when the boys get to recounting their own brief history as performers — and complaining that they never got that sit-down with Hollywood agents they were promised a year ago.
Considering that they’re at the Signature Center, in a show whose timing and flourishes have been hashed out with director Neil Patrick Harris, the speech feels a bit churlish. That said, it sets up their most astonishing feat, and please be advised that I use the word “astonishing” with full awareness of its actual definition — after this trick, involving another thoroughly shuffled deck and the duo’s appearance on the cover of The Village Voice, I was quite briefly overpowered by something like wonder. The woman behind me shouted, “What?! What?!”
At the risk of contributing to the world’s surplus of overstatement, let me leave it at this: If you think it’s possible to have your mind blown, buy a ticket — and strap a plastic bag to the back of your head. This is as good as card-magic gets. Most impressive of all: Both men are still young enough to qualify as precocious for another couple years.