Ricky Jay:On the Stem

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby Steve Bryant » 04/17/02 02:08 PM

Hey, New York readers. Any reports on the new Ricky Jay show at Second Stage? The current issue of The New Yorker has a nifty painting of Ricky (looking something like an old Russian Communist holding up an egg), but no reviews yet. The best I could find on the net was from culturefinder.com, this brief notice: Directed by David Mamet, that sleight of hand artist Ricky Jay is back in a new show promising a full deck of thrills, chills and pure astonishment. Mr. Jay presents his ingenious tales of conjurors, cheats, and sideshow showmen against the historical panoply of his native New York City.

Let's hear from you theater goers.
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Postby Matthew Field » 04/18/02 06:39 AM

My wife and I have tickets for June 19th.

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Postby Brian Morton » 04/18/02 08:20 AM

My wife and I have tickets for June 22nd; we're driving up from Baltimore for the day...

Most of the early-run seats are for subscribers of the Second Stage's season, so I doubt many magicians will be in those seats. I tried to get seats early in the season and the best I could do was last row, so I got them after they opened up for general audience purchase.

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Postby Erik Hemming » 04/18/02 09:57 AM

I spent a couple of hours on the phone/online about a month ago, and was able to get a single seat, in a good location, in the first week of May. :D

But the pickin's were mighty slim....

If--after viewing Mr. Jay's performance--I have any momentous pronouncements, uncontainable expostulations, or snarling little asides, I will post them here.

I'm certain the world awaits with abated breath....

Mostly, I'm looking forward to a fine exposition of Craft and Theater.

Best,

Gordo
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/18/02 07:26 PM

On July 4th, I will be attending the Ricky Jay show along with Jamy Swiss and Jon Racherbaumer and several others, and all of our attendant girlfriends, wives, etc. We were hoping to bring along several screaming babies and walk in about five minutes late, but Ricky has pooched our plans for that!
Perhaps we'll write something for Genii. :)
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Postby Guest » 04/20/02 10:52 AM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
On July 4th, I will be attending the Ricky Jay show along with Jamy Swiss and Jon Racherbaumer and several others, and all of our attendant girlfriends, wives, etc. We were hoping to bring along several screaming babies and walk in about five minutes late, but Ricky has pooched our plans for that!
Perhaps we'll write something for Genii. :)
Go with it anyway Richard. Then let us know what number you managed to count to before Ricky took you out with an airborne Jack of clubs!! ;)

All the best,

Graham Nichols
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/20/02 12:36 PM

Wouldn't it be an airborne Blackjack of Clubs?
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Postby Guest » 04/20/02 01:50 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
Wouldn't it be an airborne Blackjack of Clubs?
He he, very good Richard. Still, you could get your own back by croaking from the floor "No, that wasn't the card I was thinking of" :D

best, Graham
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/20/02 06:38 PM

Wouldn't it be an airborne Blackjack of Clubs?
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Postby Guest » 04/23/02 06:22 PM

My partner Karen & I have tickets for May 25th, (her birthday if anyone is in a generous mood.) ;) When I ordered the tickets and gave my name that asked if I still lived on Amsterdam Ave. in New York. I was pretty stunned since I haven't lived there since 1986! Time for them to update their mailing list!

Mark :rolleyes:
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Postby Guest » 04/25/02 12:01 AM

Saw Ricky Jay's show in NYC while I was there last week for messed-up reasons - (Dad in a motorcycle accident) - even though it's "impossible" to get tickets. Show is kinda odd - mostly big prop stuff and not sleight of hand, except for opening card stuff. (Seriously - this guy has more props than the Chriss Angel illusion show down the street!)

Haven't seen any reviews, but sample bit:

Ricky is doing card-throwing, then says:

"Proof that card-throwing existed in the Renaissance!"

Whereupon the curtain opens and a FULL-SIZE marble statue is revealed upstage. He throws a card and it deftly slices off one of its marble arms. He throws another and the other arm drops off, revealing that it is the MONA LISA. Curtain closes.

Big prop.

He also does a sideshow type thing with a Steinmeyer mirror table for a Talking Head effect - (with a real made-up assistant) - a living hand effect with a box/mirror tunnel and a complex Flea Circus that works like Gaughan's Chess Player.

All in ONE sequence.

Then there's the HUGE full-size scrolling parchment with full-size sets zipping by the proscenium, the GIANT Chess Knight's Tour that looks like something out of The Price Is Right and another huge gag with a FULL-SIZE reproduction of Michelangelo's Statue of David.

And, I kid you not: a long effect with the biggest Magic Coloring Book you ever saw.

That's off the top of my head. Plus, a different automated table/chair for each card effect.

And, that Abbott's finale with the pagodas that release streamers, flags, etc.

Plus, a Blooming Rose Bush.

(Forgot to mention: in the Chess Knight's Tour he also does square root calculations ala Art Benjamin, recites Shakespeare and sings "Black Betty.")

I'd say it's 80% props and 20% sleight-of-hand, if that. It will be fun to see what magicians think about this show.

I liked it a lot its like a history lesson of variety entertainment in NYC for the past hundred years or so.

OH!

The thing the Abbott's Pagoda Finale closes the second half with is....

The F****** EGGS IN GLASSES STUNT!

Almost forgot about THAT!!!!

And, he does a pickpocket sequence with the Himber Wallet; (with David Roth making a cameo as a telegram messenger.

And, a multi-part routine with that trick where the spectator puts their finger in a loop of chain on a table to see if their finger catches or not. Great stuff bound to be stolen by every magician on Earth.

Memory is coming back slowly, but I think you have to agree: it's a lot to remember for a Ricky Jay show. (Even the smaller parts of the show are COMPLEX: bills appear in IMPOSSIBLE places, etc.)

I think Ricky is being very smart with this show - it allows him to have a bigger audience than 100 people at a time.

The only way I can describe this show is that that parts of it feel like a Ricky Jay cartoon as written by Joel Hodgson or Paul Harris.

And, in my book, thats a GOOD thing.
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Postby Guest » 04/25/02 03:57 AM

I am going to see the show on July 10th, anyone else seeing it then?

Noah Levine
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Postby Pete Biro » 04/25/02 07:53 AM

I knew Ricky was going to be doing some BIG STUFF as I saw things being built for him but we were all being quiet about it...

Sounds like something very original...

:cool:
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Postby Steve Bryant » 04/25/02 02:44 PM

Yikes. I just looked at ABEbooks, and even the soft cover editions of Cards as Weapons are asking from $220-$500.
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Postby Guest » 04/25/02 02:52 PM

I remember seeing Ricky doing the figure of eight chain as a bunco on a british tv show some time back......a classic
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Postby Cugel » 04/25/02 04:21 PM

xmagician - thanks for the detail.

(Did you mean Venus de Milo, rather than Mona Lisa...?)
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Postby Guest » 04/25/02 10:44 PM

No, Andrew, I meant the MONA LISA!!!!!!

Seriously, Ricky Jay is THAT good: he throws two playing cards at a marble statue, the arms get cut off and then....it magically transforms into a friggin PAINTING of the Mona Lisa!!!! I mean, I think we were all expecting the Venus de Milo gag because we see that in EVERY show - (Hippity Hop Rabbits....Linking Rings....Cards As Weapons Venus de Milo Gag....blah, blah, blah) - but this is Ricky Jay we're talking here and he takes it to another level.

Okay....

Yeah, it was the Venus de Milo.

I was tired when I wrote this last night.

(By the way, I think the other statue gag in the show was going to be the classiest d*ck joke in the history of Broadway, but unfortunately it didn't work the night I saw it. The figleaf on the statue teetered, but didn't drop off like Venus' arms. I think maybe Johnny Gaughan needs to fly in and fix this so that next time we get the full effect and not just teased for our $65 bucks.)

Great new poster of Ricky for sale in the lobby, too - in my opinion, his best yet.
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Postby Guest » 04/25/02 11:05 PM

The new Ricky Jay poster can be seen at:

http://www.showtixinc.com/listings/shows/ricky_jay.htm

Another description of the show (not written by someone drunk):

http://www.nymag.com/cueN/theater.cfm

Also, I know this show is "sold out" forever, but if you really want to see it - (and it's definitely a must-see) - you just have to work a little harder than normal. The cancellation line is always a good bet - if you're in NYC - or buying a single ticket or tickets apart from each other in the theater is MUCH easier than tickets together; (if you want to hold hands, there are PLENTY of seats at Mindfreak up the street or the revival of Oklahoma starring Charles Nelson Reilly.)
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Postby Guest » 04/26/02 12:56 AM

To See Ricky Jay I think that most fans would be prepared to hold hands with whoever was sat next to them, regardless of gender :D

best,

Graham Nichols.
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Postby Larry Miller » 04/26/02 07:17 AM

Cards as Weapons is selling at Ricky's show in NYC for $20.00.
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Postby Frank Yuen » 04/26/02 07:52 AM

Cards as Weapons is selling at Ricky's show in NYC for $20.00.
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Lawrence, is this a new edition that he is selling? There had been word of a possible reprint coming soon.

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Postby Larry Miller » 04/26/02 01:05 PM

Frank:
Can't comment because I didn't actually see the book--only the advertisement that was posted onthe wall in the lounge at he theater.
Sorry
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Postby Guest » 04/26/02 01:09 PM

Are you sure it was Cards As Weapons? The only two books I saw advertised on the wall were Learned Pigs and the new Jay's Journal compilation, plus a couple of posters.
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Postby Larry Miller » 04/26/02 01:20 PM

Wouldn't swear to it but quite sure it was"Cards...".
BTW,aren't you the gentleman who saw the Mona Lisa?

These are the jokes!
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Postby Guest » 04/26/02 01:34 PM

If some kind soul who is attending Mr Jay's show would be kind enough to purchase a poster and mail it to me in the UK, please email me privately. I tried calling the theatre and asking them if I could purchase said item by mail. Their reply wasn't too cordial and ended in "off" - which was nice.

best,

Graham Nichols
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Postby Guest » 04/26/02 02:20 PM

I think if Cards As Weapons was for sale, I would have bought a copy - even though I already have a couple; (I think it was the first publication I ever had that had naked girls in it, although they were no Mona Lisas.)
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Postby Pete Biro » 04/26/02 02:56 PM

Dumb question about Ricky's show... what are they referring to with the word 'STEM' ???
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Postby Brisbin » 04/26/02 03:52 PM

In the parlance of another time, I believe "the stem" referred to "the street." If it's being used in another context, please let me know. I'm sure those who are fortunate enough to attend Mr. Jay's performance could tell us. Sending all good wishes to you, Mr. Biro...
"No Dough, No Show" - Stan Kramien
"What the mind harbors, the body manifests." - Tohei Koichi
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Postby Guest » 04/26/02 06:00 PM

Ricky Jay: On the Stem, a tribute to the kind of sidelight traditions of Broadway ("the Stem")
A quote from the above mentioned website
It doesnt mean much to me guys.
Does it relate to "Fringe" style or smaller theatre ? :confused:
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Postby John Hopkins » 05/07/02 12:31 PM

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/03/arts/ ... 3RICK.html

This is the May 5th review of "On the Stem" in the New York Times. You may have to register to read it, but registration is free.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 05/07/02 12:47 PM

The reviews of the show from The New York Times, New York Post, Newsday, and New York Daily News are all linked to from www.magictimes.com
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Postby Guest » 06/22/02 12:42 AM

There is a superb Ricky Jay article in Entertainment Weekly (Scooby Doo cover). The interviewer asks him about Blaine, the magic community, and his childhood. He refuses to comment on two out of three. Check it out!

~josh
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Postby Gary Brown » 07/01/02 07:18 PM

Greetings all -

This is my first post on the Genii forum, and am delighted to have the chance to add my reaction to Ricky Jay's new show, which I got to see last night (6/30).

Overall, I thought the show was outstanding, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Indeed, some of the very features of the performance that were greeted by some posters with derision stand, in my mind, as a tribute to Jay's overwhelming power as a performer. Imagine being able to hold an audience spellbound by simultaneously calculating cube roots, thinking through a chess problem, singing obsolete ditties and reciting random Shakespeare passages. That's exactly what Ricky Jay did -- and did it exceedingly well. (I will agree that the use of the Greek and Roman statues were a bit gratutious, but they were simply throw-away gags - and elaborate ones at that). Also remarkable was one of the simplest pieces - a routine featuring the gambling game "fast and loose" played with a length of chain and two spectators. Ricky can really sell this material, and really puts it over.

The show is less sleight-intensive than 52 Assistants, which I had the pleasure of witnessing first hand several years back (there is a small overlap between the shows, but not enough to distract faithful fans). Yet it was fresh and original - Ricky blends his exquisite knowledge of showbiz history and arcane scholarship with strong magic and showmanship. The result is extraordinary. He succeeds where most magicians have failed -- on Broadway (which I believe is the true origin of "the stem" - referring to the way that Broadway snakes through the heart of Manhattan.)

For me, the high point was the finale - in which Jay presents Robert-Houdin's orange growing tree. Seeing a spectator's ring appear on a ribbon carried by two mechanical flying doves - something I'd read about so often but never seen -took my breath away.

Collectors should note -- there are a number of nice items at the show. 52 Assistants posters are still available -- though unsigned -- for $50, and the Stem posters (which someone posted a URL for) are $30. The Stem image is also available on a deck of playing cards for $10. But for my money the best item is a poster tauting Jay's Journal of Anomalies -- the piece, which sells for $20, features a horizontal image of Lionel the Lion-Faced Man reading a copy of the book. It's swell.

See it if you can, and enjoy!

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Postby Bob Coyne » 07/01/02 08:59 PM

I was at the same performance! I wonder what percentage of his audiences are magicians.

Yes, it was truly excellent magic and theater...a feast for the imagination, with a whole bygone era coming alive. And I agree that the orange tree effect was performed beautifully and the highlight of the show. How I wish he could have gone on for another couple hours!

One point on the magic, I was surprised when a non-magician friend realized that either loop would lose in Fast and Loose...so the whole "I'm a very good judge of character" bit, while very entertaining, wasn't necessarily convincing to everyone.
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Postby Guest » 07/02/02 07:34 AM

I amazed myself when I dealt Ricky four Aces in the opening of his show. How did I do that? I'm was so amazed, I will return on Jul 14 and do it again -- I hope. Everyone: go see the show if you're in town.
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Postby Brian Morton » 07/02/02 08:34 AM

My wife and I saw the show on June 22nd, after spending a delightful day out at Coney Island getting hosed down by firefighters at the 90+-degree Mermaid Parade. (Todd Robbins was goading the firefighters, "You wouldn't hose the Brooklyn Borough President, now, would you?" They did.)

The new Jay show was charming, and oh, how dialogue-filled. Ricky must have spent many months working on that material.

The card material at the start was impressive as always, except for one segment where he flat out blew the misdirection on a hand-mucking switch and you could sense it in the room ... there were audible mutters and a "change of energy" in the audience (I don't know how else to describe it).

The chain was wonderfully done -- much of it seems like David Roth's handling, except for the closing sequence, which appears to be original to Jay.

All the apparatus is gorgeous; the flea circus, apparently built by Steinmayer, looks like a god took a day off and built a flea circus. It's that beautiful. And the "Orange Tree" speaks for itself.

Although some magicians have expressed disapproval of "The Knight's Tour" (the singing, chess-and-cube-root-calculating part of the show) I thought it was one of the strongest segments.

On the whole, an impressive show in many ways, but I'm left with a lingering feeling that "52 Assistants" (which I only saw on video) was stronger in that the theatrical construct was more closely aligned to the actual show -- Jay and cards -- than this one, which "The Stem" is a device upon which much of the "plot" is hung.

For those collectors, the show had "52 Assistants" posters for sale, under a sign that said "Prove to your friends that you saw this show! Buy a poster!" proving that the posters will be on sale only at the show -- not by mail order or any other way. "On The Stem" posters had apparently sold out, as had the playing cards, at the time of our visit. The "Journal of Anomalies" posters were still available.

We did fork over five bucks for the "Ricky Jay Hundred Dollar Sweets," if anything, for the souvenir value. Later that night when meeting up with Todd Robbins and Jamy Ian Swiss we were amused to find out that a box of the sweets had gone on eBay the week before for $90. Ah, sweet irony.

And for those who are star-struck, Heather Graham sat two seats to my left in the row behind me. She and Ricky studiously never made eye contact throughout the show (even though she was on the aisle and he brushed right by her while selling the candy after intermission), but she was the first person in the room to leap to her feet for the standing ovation at the end of the show following the Malini Card Stab.

(For those missing the miniscule cultural significance of this, Graham played Rollergirl and Ricky the cameraman in "Boogie Nights.")

I understand the show has been extended into August (and subsequently sold out many of those performances). If you get a chance at perhaps single-seat tickets, I'd go for it. It's rare that you get to see magic treated this well on stage.

brian :cool:
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Postby Guest » 07/02/02 08:49 AM

Brian: That was me you saw on Jun 22 that dealt Ricky four Aces.
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Postby Brian Morton » 07/02/02 09:11 AM

KevinM wrote:
Brian: That was me you saw on Jun 22 that dealt Ricky four Aces.
Wow -- the evening show? You were the one sitting to his left, right? Not the guy who had a deck of cards in his pocket, were you?

Apparently you didn't catch the switch -- up that close, the misdirection must have been fine -- but on a larger scale (frame of vision and all) we saw everything. It's sort of like seeing spoon-bending on a large stage -- up close you can't see a thing but framed by a large room small out-of-place motions get visually amplified.

I saw people doing the "Mmmm -- I saw that" head shake.

Other than that, how'd you like the show?

brian :cool:
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Postby Bob Coyne » 07/02/02 09:31 AM

In the show I attended (june 30), I also noticed a person or two reacting just as he did the switch. So at least a few seemed to have caught it, though it seemed to have fooled most in the audience.

In that performance, the previous hand that Ricky dealt didn't pan out (the spectator won). The spectator had previously shuffled the deck. Ricky stripped out the aces or tried to and was doing some funny dealing (couldn't see too well from the distance), but wound up with nothing. After that failure, he had the spectator do the whole bit (shuffle and dealing) with the switch at the end.

Anyway, it's interesting how these sleights tend to telegraph from a distance. You can't even see the identities of the cards that well, but the characteristic movements of the sleights are apparent.
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Postby Guest » 07/02/02 09:56 AM

Yes, that was me with the deck of cards in my pocket -- And no, I didn't see the switch. Last year in Cambridge, I also sat with Ricky during his 52 Assistants show while he did the "gambling demonstrations."

When I purchased the tickets to this year's show, I walked out of theatre and thought, I better get another pair for a second show. And so I did...
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