Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Rogue's Gallery

We’ve been fans of Ricky Jay since he played the cameraperson in Boogie Nights, one of my all-time favorite movies. Since then he’s appeared in David Mamet’s Heist and numerous other movies, the HBO series Deadwood, and was a recently revealed clue to the mystery behind the current TV show FlashForward. But he is probably best known for being a master sleight-of-hand artist as well as scholar and collector of curiosities.

Several years ago we saw Ricky speak at the UCLA library, where he described his fascination for all things unusual and deceptive: e.g., 19th century automatons, carnival folk, notorious card sharps, and illusionists. A few years later, we bought front-row tickets for Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants, an intimate show where he performed the most amazing card tricks either of us had ever seen. We talked about it for weeks.

On Tuesday, we attended the opening night of A Rogue’s Gallery, Ricky Jay’s latest show. The performance was hugely engaging, even though we were seated in the very last row of the balcony (comp tickets for making a donation to the Geffen Playhouse’s education fund). In addition to his usual card tricks and fetes of mental magic, Ricky projected images of 108 posters, playbills, and other paper items—a mere fraction of the marvelous ephemera he has collected—which then led to amusing tales of sword-swallowing women, lion-tamers, and other interesting characters. All in all, a highly entertaining evening.

A Rogue’s Gallery is playing at the Geffen till January 10. Go see it if you like parlor tricks and/or good ol’ fashioned storytelling.

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