Ricky Jay – A Rogue’s Gallery

Ricky JayA Rogue’s Gallery
Geffen Playhouse


It seems too soon for Ricky Jay to be doing a victory lap. Not that he won’t deserve one at some point, it just feels too soon. While already establishing himself as one of the pre-eminent sleight of hand artists, he has further spread his influence as an actor, author and consultant. The latter role has him advising filmmakers when there is a scam involved. The directors of The Illusionist and The Prestige, among others called in Jay and his Deceptive Practices company for advice.  Jay rendered ‘arcane knowledge on a need to know basis.’

But it is certainly his live performances that leave audiences spellbound.  On three prior occasions my waving hand was the one he pointed to, affording me a close up of his card tricks. Whether at his side or from a seat in the audience, his tricks were both subtle and spectacular.  Eschewing the overkill of his friends Penn & Teller or Siegfried & Roy, Jay prefers the impossible to be tightly focused.


So why does A Rogue’s Gallery seem premature? The subtitle (‘An Evening of Conversation & Performance’) is certainly accurate.  The show opens with Jay reciting a poem written for him by Shel (“Where the Wild Things Are”) Silverstein. The bulk of the evening is spent with Jay soliciting random numbers from the audience, and then having his assistant zoom in on a screen of images.  Jay then describes the ephemera he has collected, of handbills, engravings and the like. The stories are amusing and well-told, but we clamor for his performance. 

Jay delivers perhaps half a dozen tricks, each clever and fiendish. The final trick is a multi-pronged effort involving prodigious memory: he tracks a full chessboard of knight moves while divining the cube root of 9 digit numbers and bellowing the occasional field holler. 

His current card tricks are magnificent, well up to his past standards

A few film clips, including one of fellow traveler Steve Martin as The Great Flydini from the Johnny Carson Show, round out the evening.

Longtime colleague David Mamet directed the production, and attended the opening night performance.

But for those hoping for the edge of the seat ricochet of trick after trick, as with his prior stage appearances, will be left further back in their seat.

Ricky Jay plays through Jan 10 at Geffen Playhouse. For more information, visit www.geffenplayhouse.com/rickyjay

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.