Remember when you were a kid and your uncle reached behind your ear and pulled out a penny? You'll get that same feeling of gleeful astonishment every few minutes at Nothing to Hide, the new theatrical magic experience (the word "show" doesn't do this one justice) directed by Neil Patrick Harris at The Pershing Square Signature Center. Magicians Helder Guimarães and Derek DelGaudio dazzle for 70 minutes with uncanny illusions, inscrutable card tricks, and riotous humor, all while getting you to look more deeply at the meaning behind the magic.
Harris discovered the duo last year at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles and decided these guys needed a bigger audience. Well, they do, and that they're getting. But like a magician not revealing how a trick is done, I don't dare give away too much. No, you're better off going into Nothing to Hide not quite sure what to expect. I can reveal that as their magical medium of choice, Helder and Derek use standard decks of playing cards. The set for Nothing to Hide includes a felt-covered card table and a wall that shelves 720 bottles, each containing a deck of its own. (These bottles are used during one particularly impressive and dramatic illusion.) Oh, and there is a flying monkey.
What makes Nothing to Hide an experience rather than a traditional show is the element of audience participation in most of the illusions. Everyone has the chance to participate — the choice, we're told, is up to us. To my initial dismay, I unwittingly became a part of two of the acts. However, the experiences turned out to be thrilling, and they left me even more befuddled about how what I saw was actually real.
A side note for preventing befuddled looks from nearsighted viewers: Don't forget your specs, because you won't want to miss a trick.
The word "trick" seems somehow inappropriate, though. Helder and Derek's magic plumbs deeper than the superficial thrill of being dumbfounded by an illusion. In their hands, the cards become a metaphor for the chaos of the world and the order we attempt to bring to it. In our interactions with them and their artistry, we see that the choice to take part (or not) is inextricably linked to the outcome of...well, everything, not just the business with the playing cards. Our very presence makes us a participant. How's that for an existential head-scratcher? You might want to pass along that little nugget the next time you find a coin behind your niece's or nephew's ear.