by Alix Cohen
“I am weird, but so are you guys…I grew up listening to fairy tales, but the ones I loved the most were the ones I could believe would really happen…” Helder Guimaraes is part close up magician, part mentalist. His philosophical patter is smart enough to intrigue those who ‘get it’ while peppered with colloquialisms to draw in others whose only desire is to be tricked. Guimaraes engages an audience which tonight comes replete with an adroitly handled heckler.
The ersatz through line of Verso is one’s personal reality, choices and perceptions that allow us to be deceived; the illusion of luck. Guimaraes is less specific than the eloquent, psychologically adept Derren Brown (more a mentalist), but also couches his reflections in our behavior. His infectiously mischievous manner softens delivery encouraging response.
Two thirds of the somewhat padded evening (buildups are prolonged, some deceptions feel redundant) is occupied with card ‘tricks.’ Skilled misdirection finds a signed playing card appearing in Guimaraes’ pocket after being locked in a box hidden in the lobby by an audience member. Later, when the box is retrieved, a wedding ring borrowed long after the box was sequestered is found inside. (A game volunteer spontaneously falls to his knee returning the ring to its rightful owner.) Unrevealed card suits and faces are identified after considerable shuffling-this includes a rather long sequence after a deck has been cut and faces are whispered by a man holding the cards while the entire audience talks loudly about cats. No kidding. And boy do they get into it!
“The phrase it’s impossible is born out of fear of failure…” precedes an exhibition of volunteers surprisingly able to identify cards by reflexively calling one to mind and coming up with the magician’s smart phone code without clues. Guimaraes is able to glean which of them is telling the truth during another empathetic turn.
Long cons are well utilized with set-ups early on and revelations much later. A sealed envelope hung from a hook throughout the show contains a word that later shows up on a shred of a torn copy of the Village Voice. Though methodology is familiar, the magician has expanded its impact by either taking an ad in The Voice (also found in the envelope) or mocking one up, which contains things that happen during the show. It’s an immensely clever finale.
The evening, if a bit long, is enjoyable; well performed and well directed.
It’s always a challenge to fill a theater stage when a magician works small. Set Designer Catarina Marques has managed this with an enormous number of slatted crates turned every which way, some holding props, some lit within. Though it has little relationship to anything said, it takes up space, works practically, and is aesthetic.
Photos by Joan Marcus
Verso- Truth in Deception
Created and Performed by Helder Guimaraes
Directed by Rodrigo Santos
New World Stages 340 West 50th St.