The Magic of Theater: The Globe Gives Us Shakespeare as Shakespeare Intended

'Sea Monsters' and 'How to Make Friends' flirt with incoherence; 'Nothing to Hide' is a dazzling bag of tricks

Directed by Robert Falls as the most naturalistic of the bunch, The Jacksonian is also the best, a portrait of human rot and decay at the Jacksonian Motel in Jackson, Miss. The play is overwrought and overstuffed, and thus less convincing than it could be, but its starry and exceedingly talented cast ensures that it remains worth seeing.

Ed Harris plays Bill Perch, a prosperous and proud dentist who has moved into the Jacksonian after his wife threw him out of their home. It turns out he has a substance-abuse problem, and a rage-at-local-racists problem, and he has lost his medical license. Amy Madigan is his wife, proper and well mannered and unable to deal with her husband’s troubles. Their daughter, Rosy (Juliet Brett), spends time with dad at the motel and frequents its restaurant, where Fred works as a bartender and Eva, his maybe-fiancée, as a waitress. Bill Pullman plays Fred in a marvelously twisted performance, and Glenne Headly is Eva. There is at least one murder, alcoholism, a young girl-older man seduction, and excessive nitrous-oxide abuse.

The play also carries the strong implication that the societal corruption of Southern racism—the play is set in December 1964—caused personal corruption of the white people who lived under it. This time, Ms. Henley’s Southern gothic is heavy and harsh.

It is nearly impossible to describe the card tricks performed by Helder Guimarães and Derek DelGaudio in their show Nothing to Hide, which arrived last week at the Signature Center, because it’s entirely impossible for a layman to figure out how they pull off any of their feats.

Somehow a card an audience picks is found in a randomly selected, ship-in-a-jar-type bottle among the dozens lining the upstage wall. Somehow a card we watch one of the performers mark makes it into a cigar box another audience member has secreted someplace in the Signature’s lobby. In the finale, they do the same trick simultaneously, side by side, each playing to half the audience—and somehow the right card ends up in the opposite magician’s hand.

It’s legitimately astounding, and it’s presented engagingly. The two men share an easy rapport, and they’re certainly magicians for our dressed-down era, delivering their shtick with friendly, amused charm rather than all-knowing flourishes or faux-mystical hokum. Neil Patrick Harris, a noted magic enthusiast, directs them, and he continues to prove that he can do no wrong.

The Magic of Theater: The Globe Gives Us Shakespeare as Shakespeare Intended