In an age when the term ''magic show'' conjures up images of gaudy Vegas spectacles, noisy pyrotechnics, and gratuitously self-destructive stunts, it takes major 8-balls to attempt to entertain an audience for 70 full minutes with nothing but card tricks. Yet the feats performed by Derek DelGaudio and Helder Guimarães in their pithy L.A. Import Nothing to Hide are no ordinary sleights of hand: They're clever, surprising, and altogether incredible, in both the literal and figurative senses. (I overheard one astounded spectator say at a recent performance: ''Okay, that was actual sorcery.'')
Describing the proceedings in any detail would spoil the fun, but know this: One elaborate set piece revolves around clues hidden on the cover of The Village Voice's Oct. 23-29 issue, which pictures DelGaudio and Guimarães looking uncharacteristically grave. Another makes mind-boggling use of the 792 milk bottles that abut the stage, each tantalizingly filled with a full deck of cards. Shrinking violets should seek middle seats, as many bits employ audience participation. Reveals are bookended by wry, occasionally profane patter that sounds straight from the playbook of Neil Patrick Harris, a longtime magic enthusiast who doubles as the show's director and the voice of its cheeky pre-curtain announcements.
Nothing to Hide's elements aren't all as seamless as its tricks. DelGaudio and Guimarães are visually distinct Guimarães looks like a younger, Portuguese Jared Harris, while DelGaudio is a dead ringer for a Judd Apatow Repertory Player. But their personalities aren't nearly as differentiated as those of, say, Penn and Teller, whom the team has cited as an influence. As a result, their interactions have a slick sameness. And that spoken spiel, while amusing, often toes the line between charmingly meta and smug. (DelGaudio, after Guimarães has spouted some nonsense about dreaming: ''This is the sort of dream quote you'll hear in a s---ty magic show.'')
But when the guys are in their element which is to say, for most of the show those quibbles hardly matter. DelGaudio and Guimarães are performing through Dec. 8; let them wow you before they make their show disappear. A–