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Friday, 16 August 2013 00:00

'Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay' delivers what it promises

'Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay' delivers what it promises
Written by Diane Carson
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  • Director: Molly Bernstein
  • Dates: August 23-25, August 30-Sept. 1

Director Molly Bernstein's "Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay" accurately identifies what she delivers. Dominating this documentary from the first frame of his hands shuffling his beloved cards to his concluding performance of Shel Silverstein's wonderful poem "The Game in the Windowless Room," Ricky Jay keeps his mysteries to himself while generously praising mentors.

Magic practitioners who hope to learn about Jay's tricks, or those of any of his mentors, will have to look elsewhere. For "Deceptive Practice" celebrates but doesn't reveal the secrets of Jay's impressive sleight of hand magic or his astonishing card manipulation. We do learn a bit about Ricky's family, or lack thereof, and the contagious joy he derives from his immersion from the age of four until now in practicing and performing his act.

Jay's recollections are woven into a loose chronology: his early job sandwiched between Timothy Leary and Ike & Tina Turner at New York's Electric Circus to "Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants" at the Old Vic in London, his days living in Brooklyn and his grandfather setting him on his path. Adding to the profile are Jay's manager since 1977, Winston Simone, and his partner Michael Weber, both adding philosophical context and revealing stories. Archival footage presents Ricky appearing on several television shows, notably Dinah Shore, Johnny Carson and Ed Sullivan, who all but collapses in laughter.

Jay's mentors receive the most loving attention, among them the Great Slydini, Cardini, Al Flosso, and especially Charlie Miller and Dai Vernon. Ricky Potash, that is to say Ricky Jay, is an interesting person to listen to and watch, though the most receptive audience for "Deceptive Practice" will appreciate, even relish, learning the history and listening to Jay's enduring enjoyment of the deception he has mastered so perfectly.

"Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay" screens at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 23 through Sunday, August 25, and August 30 through September 1. For information and the current schedule, you may call 314-968-7487 or on the web at: series.

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