Aisle View: Ace in the Hole

Helder Guimarães in Verso
Photo: Joan Marcus

It is a given that any magician who puts together a full-length theatrical show mounted as an 8-times-a-week legit attraction in New York is likely to have come up with a barrage of tricks that he is good at, and which most always work. Otherwise, he's unlikely to make it out of the Catskills, or rather today's equivalent of the Catskills.

So while we in our first breath say that Helder Guimarães puts on an amazing display of playing-card wizardry in Verso, at New World Stages, we realize in second breath that of course he gives us an evening full of satisfying and sometimes astounding set pieces. Foolish is the illusionist who offers up illusions that only work some of the time.

What makes for success in endeavors of this sort, then, is not just the magic; it's the delivery, the entertainment, and the personality of the magician at hand. In these areas, Mr. Guimarães receives the highest grades. A native of Portugal, he has long been based in Los Angeles, playing such venues as Hollywood's Magic Castle. He achieved notice and acclaim in an earlier show, Nothing to Hide, which costarred Derek DelGaudio and was directed by Neil Patrick Harris. That one enjoyed great success at the Geffen Playhouse in 2012, and transferred here for a successful 2013 engagement at the Signature Center.

This time, Guimarães is on his own and handily carries the show with ingratiating personality and self-deprecating charm. It is all an act, of course; he clearly knows that every trick will work, even when he professes surprise or insecurity. He even goes so far as to include supposedly faulty guesses, the better to allow last-moment switches that demonstrate that he had full control all along.

The illusions are mostly in the card-shuffling realm, with a few mind-reading feats thrown in along the way. Guimarães makes strong use of his audience, with twenty or so patrons drafted into stoogedom. All in good fun, though, with nothing that those allergic to audience participation need fear. (At the performance attended, he played "rough" with only one of his victims, who seemed more than happy for the attention.)

Helder Guimarães in Verso
Photo: Joan Marcus

All told, Verso--we never do get an explanation of the title, which technically refers to the reverse (back) side of a page--offers a grand evening of theatrical magic. That is, magic in a theatrical setting.

Verso, created and performed by Helder Guimarães, opened September 28, 2016 and continues through January 15, 2017 at New World Stages