Perceptions from a master of deception.

Chances are good that you’ve seen Ricky Jay‘s work, maybe even his face, whether or not you have any clue who he is. With his company Deceptive Practices (their motto: “Arcane knowledge on a need-to-know basis”), Jay has consulted and served as technical advisor for stage and screen alike, working on such films as Forrest Gump (he designed the wheelchair which made Gary Sinese look legless – there was no CGI, just smoke and mirrors), David Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner, and Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, starring in both films as well), among many others.

Beyond that, Jay may be the world’s foremost sleight of hand artist, a renowned historian of magic and the art of the con, and the preeminent archivist and academic of human oddities, as explored in his Jay’s Journal of Anomalies. He can also throw a playing card so hard and fast that it pierces the rind of a watermelon, “that most prodigious of all household fruits,” as he refers to it.

Last December, Jay held court in the Mamet-directed one-man show “A Rogue’s Gallery,” billed as a more personal and improvisational performance, at the Royal George Theater in Chicago for a limited one-week engagement. Jay was good enough to share a few minutes of his time after he had just walked off a sound stage in Los Angeles, wrapping a long day on the set of ABC’s Flash Forward, whose cast he had recently joined. In his words, Jay plays “a menacing character,” aptly confirmed by a clip he later showed at the Royal George, a sort of introduction, in which he guns a man down at close range, then saunters off in all his bad-assitry.

(Jay’s actual physical stature does not necessarily intimidate or inspire fear, but on stage, even on the phone, there can be a gravitational force to his delivery and attitude that confirms all suspicions: If Ricky Jay can’t kick your ass, he’s probably got a staff which would be happy to do so.)

grippinglyauthentic: Is “menacing” a stretch for you to play?

Ricky Jay: Hardly. Watch it!

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