Guy Hollingworth’s one-man-show The Expert at the Card Table directed by Neil Patrick Harris plays at Santa Monica’s Broad Stage through August 7. Running just over an hour, with no intermission this fast-paced magic show delivers story, tricks and charm.
The room is rather intimate, considering we’re about to experience the unraveling of a hundred-plus year old story, which spans countries, life-long friendships, and the world of magic. However the size is fitting once you realize the story focuses on palm-sized magic. Card tricks, sleight of hand.
The tale begins as Guy Hollingworth reveals himself on stage. He’s over-sized at 6’5″. His lanky frame donned in an elegant tux and tails, with a frequent smirk that tells you he knows something you don’t. Over the next 75 minutes, Hollingworth reveals much, but like any good magician, things are not always as they appear.
“The Expert at the Card Table” is based on a book of the same name that covers the life and work of its author S.W. Erdnase. Tonight’s tale includes friendships, hustles and the eventual high-drama demise of Milton Andrews. At birth, the boy suffered from such tragedy that he was thought not to survive. Nicknamed “Ever-Sickly” Andrews, he rarely attended school and spent more time in the hospital. With all this alone time, he taught himself tricks and became a master of the cards. This talent continued with him throughout his life and took him closer and closer to the dark side.
Hollingworth tells the tale with sprinkles of card tricks throughout. A close-up camera and large screen is used to share the tiny trickery with every seat in the house. We learn bottom dealing, second dealing and the Ernade system of shuffling among more.
Neil Patrick Harris’ direction is smooth and subtle. Never showy, rather it compliments Hollingworth’s narrative with a confident stroke. Harris’ background in magic surely helps not just capture the action, but to explain the behind-the-scenes insight without giving away all the secrets or extinguishing the thrills.
The Expert at the Card Table plays Santa Monica College’s Broad stage through August 7.
Evening showings on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Matinee showings on Saturday.
For more information and to buy tickets, visit The Expert at the Card Table website