I ran out the exit door and down an alley behind the Magic Castle, clutching a wooden box. Two magicians had picked me as a volunteer during their show at the private magic club, with instructions to hide the box somewhere on Castle grounds. I panicked — the trick seemed to depend on my hiding place. Finally, I stuck it in a concrete ditch, behind a pipe, then ran back to bang on the exit door and rejoin the audience.
The rest of the box trick will not be revealed here. There will be no description of what happens and no explanation of how it works (even if I were somehow able to find out). It's better just to see it. If music writing is said to be dancing about architecture, magic writing is figure skating about castles in the sky.
Suffice it to say: "The piece with the box was just awesome," says Bill Goodwin, the Castle's librarian, who saw the show. "They don't do like other magicians, where [they say], 'We're going to do this or that.' They just do it and they respect the audience to get it themselves. So you get to the point as an audience member where you're thinking, 'No way, this can't be possible!' " But then it happens.
The magicians in question are Helder Guimarães and Derek DelGaudio, who performed together at the Magic Castle's Peller Theater during a weekend in January. The show proved so popular that they brought it back in June, and then again in August and September. Celebrities like Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes could be found milling around the bar outside, clamoring for a spot in the 50-seat theater.
Goodwin has been a Castle member since 1978. Other than a couple instances, like performances by celebs such as Steve Martin or Jason Alexander, "I cannot remember people waiting two hours in line show after show after show," he says. "Sometimes you hear, 'Oh, you got to see this show!' and you do and you see it and it's great. But there is something different about this one."
Mike Pisciotta, a manager at the Castle and a friend of DelGaudio's, says, "I've been in magic for over 20 years and it's the best magic show I've ever seen."
DelGaudio and Guimarães weren't just fooling the guests — they were fooling their fellow magicians. The audience included famed illusionists like Ricky Jay and David Blaine, some of whom would exit and get right back in line to see the show again, trying to figure out how the tricks were done.
Actor Neil Patrick Harris is president of the board of directors of the Academy of Magical Arts, which is headquartered in the Castle and is one of world's most prestigious magic societies.
"To see three-hour queues by longtime, jaded members of the Castle in order to see something so new and refreshing, and then to hear such an amazingly positive feedback, that certainly made my ears perk up," Harris says. "We had board members who couldn't get into the show. We had people queue into a show at 6 p.m. and not getting to see a show.
"The reverberations just from that couple weeks they had at the Peller, I don't think had been seen in the Castle for a long time," he adds.
Harris called Randall Arney, artistic director of the Geffen Playhouse, who directed Harris in the theater's 2006 production of All My Sons. Arney came to see the show and decided to bring it to the Geffen, in an expanded version, directed by Harris. It began performances Nov. 27 and runs through Jan. 6.
Nothing to Hide, as it's called, is a technical wonder, featuring two of the most skillful young magicians in the world. But DelGaudio and Guimarães aim to do something more than fool people — they want to help raise magic from a craft to an art. And that's not just turning magic into theater. It's making magic that means something.
Helder Guimarães was born in Porto, Portugal. "He grew up in a town of 14 people," DelGaudio says.
"Oh, that's so reductive, 14 people," Guimarães says.
"Fifteen," DelGaudio concedes. "When he left, it was 14." (It's actually the country's second-largest city.)
They're sitting in a lounge off the lobby at the Geffen Playhouse. Both are dressed in V-neck sweaters with button-down shirts popping out the top and Converse sneakers. DelGaudio, 28, has a rounder face and tousled, dark hair. The 30-year-old Guimarães (his preferred pronunciation is "Ghee-mah-ress") is slightly thinner, with red-framed glasses, and speaks with an accent — something he occasionally uses to misdirect an audience.
Guimarães' father was a magician, and his first performance was assisting his dad at a party at his kindergarten — a video shows him in a kid's tuxedo, carefully tapping a box with a magic wand.