Another suggestion of Siegfried’s from his magic show at the LA Athletics Club was to check out his friend Helder Guimarães’s show, Borrowed Time LA. The show garnered some rave reviews, but the limited run has ended, so I will be posting some spoilers!
Unlike most magic shows, Borrowed Time was not set in a theater — this was more of a “pop-up” performance. When you reserve your tickets online, you are only told the general neighborhood where the event will be held. The night before, you get a mysterious note giving you the exact address and some helpful tips regarding logistics.
I showed up maybe 15 minutes early and park down the street at a free meter, then wander on foot to find that the address given is… a little bodega? Confused, I ask the shopkeeps for help. They told me that I had the wrong address, I was on East 2nd Street when I wanted West 2nd Street. I was pretty sure I had punched in the address correctly into my GPS, but started to double-check. They asked that since I was already there, maybe I would consider buying a soda from their broken fridge or taking a picture in their photo booth against the back wall to help them out since the store was not doing too well. I obliged, and stepped into the photo booth.
Just as the final flash went off, a panel on the wall pulled away, and a young man in a tuxedo
invited me into a hidden photo-processing dark room. He was completely mute, but used silent-movie era dialogue cards to prompt me to turn off my phone and inquire if I would like to check my coat. I complied with the request and declined the offer, since I had no coat anyway.
He then walked me back into a chamber which is impossible for me to paint an adequate word picture for. If you have been to any Hendrick’s Gin events with me, that is what the décor was like… something along the lines of a Victorian museum of curiosities set inside of a botanical garden. There was a display case of neatly indexed magical artifacts, a projector playing a silent sepia-tone film of a masked man explaining a card trick, a detailed model train set, a dresser with hundreds of tiny pull-drawers, and more.
As I stood there dumbfounded, the lovely (but also mute) hostess, dressed in very fashionable steampunk (complete with goggles!), slipped me a piece of paper with a riddle on it. I found out that there were small cards hidden around the entire room with one word answers, and endeavored to find the answer to my particular riddle. I compared notes with a few other guests who had arrived before me, and apparently we all had different questions! My sense of wonder grew as I saw more and more detail throughout the room on my quest. When I found what I thought was an appropriate answer card, I brought it and the question back to the hostess, who seemed to be busy writing more at her impromptu stand made of stacked steamer trunks and a hurricane lamp.
She took my question and my answer, quickly checked for accuracy, and then filed them away and handed me a new riddle. After a few cycles of this, instead of getting a new riddle, she handed me a tiny wooden puzzle box. When I managed to solve that, she handed me an old-fashioned skeleton key. I eagerly looked around the room for an appropriate lock, but the young host came back and spoke! He ushered us through a hidden door in a wall of plants to a new room with a large round table, and that is where Helder made his appearance and the main show began!
I do not want to give away too much about this portion of things just in case Helder does this show again in the future, but for me, one of the most memorable moments was when he asked for an audience member to let him borrow a wedding ring. A young lady’s hand shot up, and Helder told us how shocked he was because it was always men volunteering, and asked if she wanted to reconsider. She turned to her husband and asked him if it was OK, but the husband deferred to her. She handed the ring over to Helder, who promptly put it into a tiny manila envelope and ran it through a hand-cranked shredder!
The entire show was, to use a term perhaps overused for magic, “mind-blowing.” And the production value was off the charts, as I inadequately tried to convey to you here. I would highly recommend Borrowed Time or any follow-up show by Helder. Oh, and as we left, the shopkeeps gave us our photo booth pictures as a memento of the show.