Tricky Ricky

A master conjurer and scholar takes his bafflements onstage, accompanied only by a deck of cards

The eight of clubs, which had gone missing, had no business turning up where it did. No way. Except Ricky Jay's way.

It happened last week, midway through the performance of Ricky Jay & His 52 Assistants, a dextrous, funny and entirely elegant revue of card conjuring at an off-Broadway theater in Manhattan. The missing card, boldly marked and closely watched, appeared -- after several comic digressions -- in a totally unexpected place that only a master manipulator can navigate (and that would be wrong to divulge here).

The audience, thoroughly flummoxed, responded with prolonged applause. As the full-bearded, heavyset Ricky...

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