Hoodwinked, the show

Con men Todd Robbins, Richard Turner, Banachek, and Bob Arno“If it weren’t onstage, it would be illegal” —The Montreal Gazette

Montreal—Our new show, Hoodwinked, opened July 15 in the Gesù Theatre as part of the Just For Laughs Festival. We had three performances, all to nearly packed houses, and all received instant standing ovations.

We were all thrilled, having come together only three days earlier to put the show together. In fact, we considered these performances our technical rehearsals.

“Prepare to be conned” is the show’s subtitle. The cast is made up of four consummate con artists who manipulate, baffle, and social-engineer the audience until they don’t know what to believe. But let me emphasize: this is not a magic show.

Card cheat Richard TurnerTake Richard Turner: cheat, card mechanic, card sharp. To be honest, card tricks bore me to to death. What Richard Turner does is riveting. His control of the cards is other-worldly, especially since he allows his audience to shuffle and cut the deck as much as they want to. He deals a winning hand at will, places the queen in three-card-monte exactly where you know she isn’t, and flips out aces from portions of the deck chosen by an audience volunteer. Simply amazing. How does he do it? “When the gambling gets heavy,” he says, “I cheat.”

Card cheat Richard Turner, and pickpocket Bob ArnoRichard is famous for his dirty dealing, which he demonstrates in the show. In fact, he demonstrates it with a card face up on the deck, so you see it stay there while he appears to deal normally. Two video cameras capture his work and project it on a huge screen behind him. Still sounds so-so? Richard demonstrates a perfect faro shuffle, in which he neatly splits the deck into equal halves (one-handed), then interweaves the two halves exactly every other card. His feel for the cards is barely believable. Pick a number, he tells his audience volunteer, holding out a deck with one hand. She says 14, or 27, or 36, or whatever. The instant she says it, he twists a chunk of the deck out, one-handed. Count them, he demands. Incredible.

The cast of Hoodwinked: Todd Robbins, Richard Turner, Banachek, and Bob ArnoRichard, a fifth-degree black belt in karate, is blind. At least that’s what they say in Hoodwinked. Is this just another con? If it’s true, you’d never know it by watching him and he largely ignores the fact himself. If it is a fact, of course. I had the enormous pleasure of spending a week with him and I can tell you, his life has been more colorful than anything the rest of us have seen. In Hoodwinked, he weaves a few anecdotes into his card work, so that jaws drop over his manipulation and control of the cards, and stay dropped throughout.

Richard Turner\'s faro shuffleFor me, a card scoffer, Richard Turner is a highlight of Hoodwinked. Of course I’ve seen Bob Arno a million and a half times. And the show wouldn’t be possible without Todd Robbins and Banachek. All the other cast members are worthy of their own articles; I will get to their stories later.

Hoodwinked will tour the East Coast in November, with big things scheduled for 2009.

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