Playing With a Full Deck

An appreciation of the artistry of Ricky Jay

In 52 Assistants Jay cites George Bernard Shaw's contention that "every profession is a conspiracy against the laity." Ricky Jay's profession is his art -- its rich history and practice. The illusion operating here is his seeming effortlessness as graceful exponent of both -- in his lively, evocative writing and in those two hours onstage that seem to pass in a fraction of that time. But make no mistake about it: appearances are deceiving. A colorful lifetime has gone into honing these skills. Yes, Jay possesses stage presence galore, but the man's got unbelievable chops.

And in relation to this consummate professional -- the passionate purveyor of the magical arts and endearingly cockeyed entertainments -- we are surely the laity. But Jay proceeds so unassumingly that we never really feel conspired against. Instead, we almost feel like part of the conspiracy -- as if we're actually in on some huge It. As if he's taking us with him, in whatever direction he's heading, into his confidence. If that's how it appears, then he's got us exactly where he wants us now. So step right up. Go right in. That's one of Ricky Jay's most amazing effects: It seems as if we've been there all along.

Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants is performed at 8 p.m. March 11-13, 15 and 17-20 and 7 p.m. March 14 and 21 at the Edison Theatre. Call 935-6543 or 534-1111.

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