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Ricky Jay: A Rogue's Gallery -- An Evening of Conversation and Performance 

When: First Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday-Sunday of every month. Continues through Dec. 6 2009
Phone: 312-988-9000
Price: $75
theroyalgeorgetheatre.com
Ricky Jay is famous for his card tricks, so it's appropriate that his new solo show is set up to resemble a game of chance. He spends most of nearly two hours sitting on a stool with a matrix of 108 images--antique posters, paintings, photos--projected on a screen behind him. Each image is numbered and represents some facet of Jay's vast learning about magic, circus, flimflam, and freaks of nature. Jay gets the audience to pick an image, any image (Jay to audience member: How much do you suppose a bag of pretzels costs? Audience member: 75 cents. Jay: Image number 75 is . . .) and then discourses on it for a while. The result is an awful lot like surfing the Web with the world's most courtly, amusing, and avuncular browser. Click on "Charles Hughes" and you find out he was an 18th-century English equestrian who had an affair with Catherine the Great and was the first to use the word "circus" in its modern sense. "Matthew Buchinger" gets you a portrait of "the little man of Nuremburg," born in 1674 without hands or legs yet celebrated for his dancing, bowling, "sleight-of-stump" work, and calligraphy. Supplemented with a couple video clips, this is fun for a while, but it started to wear on me (and seemed to be doing the same to Jay) after an hour or so. When things drag, though, Jay resorts to feats of manipulation--with and without cards--so finely worked that they occasionally seem supernatural. At the show I saw, Jay asked a volunteer to shuffle a pack of cards. Knowing that a mere shuffle would pose no impediment to the great Jay, somebody in the audience called out, "Why?"
— Tony Adler

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