by: Paulanne Simmons
At the very beginning of Charlatan, magician and mind-reader Vinny DePonto tells the audience we are all liar of marks, and during the rest of the show he proves it.
Charlatan, written by DePonto and Josh Koenigsberg and directed by Ars Nova’s director-in-residence Andrew Neisler, is replete with all the necessary tricks professional conmen have up their sleeves. DePonto produces the right card from a well-shuffled deck, the correct cell phone number belonging to a man he does not know, and even a serial number from a dollar bill he has never seen before.
We all know these tricks are the product of sleight-of-hand and misdirection, but because we want to be entertained, and also because we can’t figure out exactly how these tricks are executed, we suspend our disbelief and put ourselves in the hands of the mentalist, magician, mind-reader, or whatever term the trickster is known by.
Of course, the conman must be entertaining, and a bit mysterious. He must know exactly how far to take a joke. He must recognize which member of the audience should be called onto the stage and which one is better off in his seat.
DePonto has all the requisite charm that makes us want to shake a conman’s right hand even though we know he may be slipping his left hand into the pocket that holds our wallet. But have no fear. DePonto’s tricks are much more benign in nature.
At the beginning of the show, the audience was asked to write either a confession or a lie on a piece of paper and put it in an envelope collected by DePonto’s assistant. At the end of the show, DePonto not only separated the liars from the confessor, but also figured out exactly what was confessed. If there were any really serious confession, DePonto wisely left them in the basket.
Charlatan. Through Arpil 12 at Ars Nova (511 West 54 Street). http://arsnovanyc.com.