The Geffen welcomes, direct from Hollywood’s Magic Castle, Derek DelGaudio and Helder Guimaraes, clean-cut lads in black jackets and narrow ties like ’50s Teddy Boys, in an hour’s worth of marvelous card trickery called “Nothing to Hide.” If their showmanship doesn’t quite approach the level of their craft, they’re young yet, but there’s no reason for audiences to wait until the one catches up to the other. One thing can’t be understated: Their sleight-of-hand is, as first-nighters were heard to gasp again and again, amazing.Derek is a slightly fleshier Michael Madsen lookalike, Helder reminiscent of Henry Gibson (“Laugh-In”) with a Portuguese accent. By coincidence or design, both reflect the ham-on-wry public personality of their helmer Neil Patrick Harris (star of “How I Met Your Mother”): slightly supercilious and archly knowing; essentially charming; preening and self-deprecating all at once. Neither has any more trouble capturing audience affection than Harris does while hosting award shows. Standard illusionist tropes are both employed and denied. Kicking off a sequence, Helder is wont to intone some solemn, gnomic sentiment like “It’s never enough” or “All men dream, but not equally,” which Derek is quick to deflate: “That’s the sort of quote that appears in every shitty magic show.” Offering a spectator option they’ll ask rhetorically, “Could we be fairer?,” and then turn it into a debate (“Yes, we could be fairer; of course, are you kidding?”). Such meta, postmodern deconstruction of traditional magicians’ patter has itself become kind of traditional since Penn and Teller, but it wears easy here. The routines themselves involve plenty of audience participation, and at times it seems as though the houselights are up more than they’re dark. Those in the first row are asked to do a lot of shuffling and take a goodly amount of kidding, but no one in the Geffen’s black-box space is safe from the injunction to pick a card, any card. What Harris, or someone, needs to do is explore the team dynamic. Little conflicts explode around this one’s mocking that one’s mispronunciation or misstep, and a wordless Pinteresque battle over a chess timer is a suspenseful joy. But right now this is really a matched pair of jokers. Has any great comedy or magic team failed to establish and exploit clear differences in attitude and intention? It’s usually some sort of bully/patsy thing, but these guys are clever enough to find an interesting alternative. They might start with the show’s key art, in which they’re shown drinking and smoking with battered faces. The passion or folly that could’ve led to that outcome would be interesting to weave into the act. There’s no doubt DelGaudio and Guimaraes have nothing to hide. Their next step is bringing in something to reveal.
Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles; 109 seats; $147 top
A Geffen Playhouse presentation of a show in one act created by Derek DelGaudio and Helder Guimaraes, and written by DelGaudio. Directed by Neil Patrick Harris. Magic choreography, Guimaraes. Artistic director, Glenn Kaino. Sets, Dave Spafford; lighting, Adam Blumenthal; music, Pedro Marques. Opened, reviewed Nov. 27, 2012. Runs through Jan. 6, 2013. Running time: 70 MIN.
With: Derek DelGaudio, Helder Guimaraes.