This December, celebrate sleight of hand — and I don’t mean shopping online. “Nothing to Hide,” the new magic show at the Geffen Playhouse featuring Derek DelGaudio and Helder Guimarães is droll, elegant and trim, but then what else would you expect from director Neil Patrick Harris?
Even the set has a sense of humor. Lining high upstage shelves are dozens of Eng Bottles, narrow-necked glass flasks each containing a packet of playing cards. A magician’s version of a ship in a bottle, these Engs act as a visual wink at the audience, a reminder that astonishment is a meet-cute between the apparently impossible and a great deal of meticulous work.
The makers of those bottles — a.k.a. our hosts — consist of a self-described “Portuguese muppet” (Guimarães, who choreographed the magic) and “a human version of Big Boy” (DelGaudio, the show’s writer). The pair begins the evening in dead silence, sitting at a felt-covered table with a chess clock, dueling over a single deck of cards. This literal face-off sets the tone for the show, in which a sense of play is as important as prestidigitation. Fresh princes of the misdirect, the two use age-old gags (blindfolds, cards under glass and up sleeves, audience participation) in some sly new ways.
Occasionally the tricks draw too much attention to their own elaborateness, and seem overworked. (Like DelGaudio says, “More is not more. It’s just … more.”) But these card sharks’ best moments feel both spontaneous and inevitable and “Nothing To Hide,” in its low-tech, intensely live way captures your attention to free your mind. Keep your eye on these two aces. Because the best gift in our distracted age may be someone who actually can give you the present.
“Nothing To Hide” Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater, Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood Village. 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8:00 and 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Jan. 6. $64-$149. Contact: (310) 208-5454 or www.geffenplayhouse.com Running time: 60 minutes.