It was the show that spawned Magic On Broadway and Mind Games — and no doubt inspired hundreds of people across America to hurl playing cards at watermelons. The show was Ricky Jay And His 52 Assistants, a sold-out hit at NYC's Second Stage Theatre in 1994. Ricky Jay brought his show back to the Second Stage in 1997, and in late 2000, word came that he'd be hurtling towards New York again — this time to Broadway, assuming a theatre became available.
That has yet to happen, but October will see a new Jay show, a duet with the man who directed his first outing, David Mamet. Two Hussies will do a one-night-stand Oct. 4 at Town Hall. The show is being presented by SFX Entertainment/Delsener Slater Enterprises.
Following that, Off-Broadway's Second Stage Theatre has announced that Jay will also be part of its 2001-02 season in a show titled Ricky Jay — Back in New York, previewing in March 2002. Mamet will direct, but this is not the same Jay show as the one at Town Hall.
In early December, the New York Times mentioned Ricky Jay among a half-dozen shows circling the Great White Way in search of a springtime home. At the time, insiders pointed to the Booth Theatre as the likeliest venue, since The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe had just closed. Recent times (pre-terrorist attack) led to rumors that the Off-Broadway hit Topdog/Underdog might come to the Booth for a limited run this fall (word has it the producers are now eyeing a springtime launch for the Suzan-Lori Parks play).
Ricky Jay's show, which has also been captured in a cable television special, includes sleight-of-hand and mentalist feats, as well as his legendary ability to fling a playing card across the room and make it slice into the rind of a watermelon. Jay's books on the subject of unusual magic include "Cards As Weapons" and "Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women." Mamet, author of Glengarry Glen Ross and Speed-the Plow directed the first two versions of Ricky Jay And His 52 Assistants.
Just prior to the 1997 return of RJ-52 at Second Stage, Jay told the New York Times that the initial New York run "was the most exciting thing I'd ever done. I don't know if you can recreate experiences that were so terrific in your life, but I'm going to give it a try."
Currently on the Second Stage stage, Chicago wunderkind director Mary Zimmerman continues making inroads into New York theatre. She's opened the season with her adaptation of Ovid's myths, Metamorphoses, having started previews Sept. 19 and opening for a limited run Oct. 9 to Nov. 4 with extension possible.
She helmed The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci Off Broadway and recently staged the NYSF's Central Park Measure for Measure.
The cast includes Anjali Bhimani, Raymond Fox, Kyle Hall, Doug Hara, Felicity Jones, Chris Kipiniak, Louise Lamson, Erik Lochtefeld, Heidi Stillman, and Lisa Tejero. The show won the 2000 L.A. Ovation Award for Best Play and has also been staged at Seattle Repertory (February 2000).
With a swimming pool as the performance's centerpiece, Metamorphoses stages the great transformation myths of Ovid with additional material compiled by Zimmerman from other sources, including the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. King Midas, Orpheus and Eurydice, and Cupid and Psyche all make appearances during the evening, wherein they change physically, emotionally and mentally. Zimmerman, a MacArthur Fellowship ("Genius Grant") recipient, is known for her innovative work with classical texts including Arabian Nights and The Odyssey, which she staged for Chicago's Goodman Theatre. Zimmerman is a Resident Manilow Director at the Goodman and an ensemble member of Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre Company, where Metamorphoses premiered in 1998.
Designing Metamorphoses are Daniel Ostling (set), Mara Blumenfeld (costumes), Andre Pluess & Ben Sussman (sound) and TJ Gerkens (lighting).
Also on the Second Stage roster this season are Athol Fugard directing his drama, Sorrows and Rejoicings (January 2002) with John Glover (Love! Valour! Compassion!) and Charlayne Woodard, and a revival of Wallace Shawn's look at discordant relationships, Marie and Bruce (June 2002). A revival of Edward Albee's Seascape, which had been rumored for this season, will now happen "next fall," according to a Richard Kornberg office spokesperson (reached Oct. 1).
— By David Lefkowitz