Sunday, January 15, 2012

Penn & Teller at the Rio

Even now, days after I took a friend to see the Penn & Teller show at the Rio, I'm still high from it.

Yeah, it's that good.

Penn is a born showman, with a polished, consistently hilarious patter that really keeps things moving along. Teller is grace incarnate, a trickster whose every move is executed with exquisite grace. And their show is more than just a grab-bag collection of gasp-inducing magic tricks. It's a 90-minute master class by two expert showman who want to gird you against trickery by rubbing your nose in it.

There's a not-so-subtle libertarian streak in Penn's patois that's made incarnate by their creative use of metal-detectors and an engraved-steel version of the Bill of Rights. A constant theme of their work, be it onstage at the Rio or in one of their many television shows, is that we are surrounded by hypocrisy & lies and only by becoming intimately familiar with the mechanics of deception can we protect ourselves from it.

As heavy as that sounds, I kind of agree with it, and the lessons of Penn & Teller are nothing if not entertaining. There's the ball-and-cup trick which Penn & Teller execute with a neat & informative twist: they use transparent cups, which serves only to highlight their amazing skills. There's also the opening of the show, which involves a box on wheels that literally everyone in the theater inspects personally. And I'd pay real money to anyone who can explain to me exactly how the "Magic Bullets" trick works. I've seen it performed twice now, and, while I have my theories, I'm still flabbergasted by it.

Bottom Line: The Penn & Teller Show at the Rio is what I consider a must-see for anyone coming to Las Vegas.

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