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Nothing to Hide

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

Derek DelGaudio and Helder Guimarães
Photo by Michael Lamont.
You've heard the phrase "Let's call a spade a spade"? You'll never hear it again once word gets out about Nothing to Hide, which just opened at the Pershing Square Signature Center.

During the course of this arresting 70-minute show, which has been directed by Neil Patrick Harris, magicians extraordinaire Derek DelGaudio and Helder Guimarães transform the spades on playing cards into hearts, diamonds, and clubs—and every suit into every other suit. Cards disappeared into thin air, appeared out of thin air, leapt feet (and in the most dazzling case, yards) through the air, and otherwise defy traditional concepts of space, time, and logic, as if they were inspiring the laws of physics to rewrite themselves.

Am I exaggerating? Maybe a little. But DelGaudio and Guimarães are such superb showmen, and Harris has staged with such a crisp hand, that putting aside your natural skepticism doesn't seem like just the right thing to do—it honestly feels like your only choice. And because they maintain their ruse from first second to last, and inject more than enough humor and engagement into their act, you have no good reason to ever doubt them or yourself.

"Mystery is a delicate thing," DelGaudio says early on, and certainly the opening scene of the show proves it. The evening begins wordlessly, as the two men duel to arrange a fresh pack of cards in suit and numerical order, in a bizarrely masculine game of one-upmanship that builds in laughs and gasps at the same time. A single tap, whether of the apparently random deck or of the timers placed on the edge of the table at which they sit, is enough to unleash torrents of silliness or shock, and DelGaudio's and Guimarães's stony faces, which give way to mock exasperation as each is "bettered" in feats of wonderment, create their own kind of narrative as riveting as any you'll find in a real play.

None of the drama that follows is quite as riveting as this, even as the tricks themselves keep getting better. Two separate cards appear, folded, under the same wine glass. Guimarães, blindfolded, somehow manages to match the cards in DelGaudio's hand. The contents of a cigar box teleport themselves out of the theater and back again. An issue of the Village Voice from last month predicts a randomly selected card. DelGaudio sorts through a dozen conflicting voices to determine who in the audience held which cards were distributed to them. A deck appears from within a sealed bottle, with an audience member's friend's name written on it. And so on.

These tricks are thrilling, no doubt, and if you're worried (as I was) that card tricks get old after a while or you won't be able to see the numbers and suits well enough to follow what's going on, your hosts are more than skilled enough to ensure that neither is an issue. Dave Spafford's set and Adam Blumenthal's lighting are incredibly basic, but all that are required: DelGaudio and Guimarães provide all the color you need, and then some, and Harris keeps it aggressively muted until it can explode in wonderment, humor, or mock cynicism at the moments that will impart the most bracing theatrical effect.

As unforgettable as the tricks are, it's the personalities and the banter that really sell them. DelGaudio wields his battle-hardened American brusqueness like an expert, and is a master at transferring it into dark comedy; his reference to "the bondage card" and shouting "Monkey in the air!" for an inexplicably good reason burn even brighter than his sleight of hand in my memory. And the way the Portuguese Guimarães cultivates a blasé innocence only to get down and dirty later is almost as entertaining. And when the two join forces, as when they repeat the same droning instructions to the audience with hilarious changes in emphasis, or conduct a single trick simultaneously with two halves of the audience, there's no way to want more from them.

You'll eventually find yourself looking forward as much to their badinage as to the miracles they'll perform. That's the way it should be. Theatre, even if it's of the on-the-edge variety like this, ultimately needs to be about people. DelGaudio and Guimarães spend a lot of time focusing on, and interacting with, the people watching them, no doubt. But when all is said and done, they also prove they're willing to take chances and put themselves and, yes, their hearts, on display. This, more than anything else, helps Nothing to Hide so powerfully live up to its title.

Nothing to Hide
Through December 8
Signature Theatre Company's Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at the Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street between Dyer and 10th Avenues
Running Time: 70 minutes with no intermission
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: TicketCentral

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