Monday, March 04, 2013



 Last week I listened to the Nerdist Podcast as frequently do, and Chris Hardwick was interviewing Neil Patrick Harris along with these two magicians I had never heard of, but who apparently had won all sorts of awards etc.  They were talking about their show "Nothing to Hide" at the Geffen Playhouse and their philosophy of magic etc.  I was enthralled.  I've been to the Magic Castle before and was incredibly impressed by the talent there, but what Derek DelGaudio and Helder Guimarães, these two previously unknown magicians, were talking about was something different from what I experienced there, something more immersive.  I'd never heard of magic actually telling a story, of a magic show as a sort of play with a narrative or a vision.

On Thursday evening on my way home from work I finished the podcast.  That night I made a decision: I would see this magic show.  I found tickets online for the show Sunday, I talked to my husband to see if he was interested in attending so we could find a babysitter.  He wasn't.  I sort of half-assed asked people if they wanted to come with me, but truly, if I'm being honest with myself, I actually WANTED to go alone.  I can't really explain my motivations behind this.  Maybe it was the fact that I do so few things as a bonafide adult that I wanted to do it on my own.  Maybe I just needed a break from the real world for a while.  Or maybe, and I think this is probably the most likely, I wanted to experience this moment by myself.  DelGaudio and Guimaraes talk a lot about moments in the podcast interview.  They discourage cell phone video not simply because they don't want their act to go online without their consent or knowledge, but because the experiences we have, the moments we have, particularly in a magic show, are ones that cannot be recaptured.  I've never heard of magic being talked about with this wabi sabi connotation before.  I wanted to experience it.  I wanted an experience that I would have that no one else could share, that could be mine.

On Sunday I drove down to LA and attended the most spectacular and wonderful magic show I have ever seen in my life.  The tricks/ effects themselves were nothing flashy, nothing showboating or false.  The show was simply a demonstration in pure talent.  It was like watching a virtuoso pianist.  Surely anyone could, in theory, accomplish what they did just as surely as anyone could play cello like Yo Yo Ma.  It was artistry pure and simple.  DelGaudio and Guimarães were charming, witty, engaging as performers and a sheer delight.  They involved multiple members of the audience for many of the tricks, and the 100 person seated room felt small and intimate from where I sat in the third row.

I was selected for one of the hallmark pieces, which involved a Eng Bottle an "Impossible bottle" in which a pack of playing cards has been painstakingly crafted inside a glass jar, similar to how a ship in a bottle is assembled.  The whole back of the stage during the entire performance is filled with rows upon rows of these bottles.  After tossing a sock monkey into the audience and asking audience members to toss it again and again, eventually the adorable monkey landed in my lap.  There were some witty exchanges at which I became very giggly and nervous as I am wont to do on the occasion of being in the spotlight (though I was at my seat).  They asked me if there was anyone that I could call tomorrow, anyone without prior knowledge that I was attending the performance.  After a brief hesitation I said my Grandma Estelle (I had posted I was going to the show on Facebook, it actually took me a moment to figure out who didn't know I was going). I was instructed to call her and tell her I had a dream, a strange dream in which all that was about to occur had occured from the sock monkey to the chubby Bob's Big Boy impersonator and the Portuguese Muppet on stage.  Then I was asked to name a card.  Often times people pick common cards, the queen of hearts, the ace of spades, they explained.  I had the whole deck to choose from.  I picked the 2 of hearts.  I can't say why I picked the two of hearts.  Did they force me with subliminal suggestion or did the card just occur to me?  I don't have the slightest idea.  They made some sexual innuendo about picking that particular card with relation to my grandmother.  They teased and played and asked if I was certain that that was the particular card I wanted.  Then they asked me to pick an Eng Bottle on the wall.   Any one I wished.  I chose one on the third shelf on the second to last row, the fourth bottle over.  Again, was this forced?  Was there a particular reason I chose that bottle?  I don't know.  DelGaudio proceeded to pick up the bottle, bring it over to the small table that was in the middle of the stage, place the bottle in a plastic bag, smash the bottle with a hammer and pull out a deck of cards.  Guimarães opened the deck right in front of me.  He fanned the deck right in front of me, backs showing. One card was facing the opposite direction.  It was the 2 of hearts.  After a hearty applause he asked if that was enough to impress me.  Then he lifted the card and turned it around.  On the back of the card in thick sharpie was my grandmother's name "ESTELLE" written in bold letters.  I was dumbfounded.  Forcing decks, hiding cards in fruit or something, all that I've seen.  But when in gods name had someone had time to write in sharpie my grandmother's name?  I didn't write her name on the card so they couldn't have had it palmed the whole time.  No one ever left my sight, no hands were out of view.  Perhaps if it were something like a tear or a sticker it could have been done to the card covertly, but a name written in sharpie?

That is the only trick I will describe in detail.  They ran through many semi familiar card tricks with new twists. The entire thing was phenomenal.  Beautifully executed, charming, delightful.  Like watching Ricky Jay in his classic 52 assistants special.  A moment that I will never experience again.  That I can only capture in a single image.  A single word.