The story of Devil in the Deck.
The show story.
Devil in the Deck introduces us to Jack Swindle, the greatest con man who has ever lived. On the eve of Jack's first birthday his mother takes him to a gypsy fortune teller.
"Love, loss, pain, regret, mitigated by ruin and crossed with death. It is the worst fortune ever told."
Jack's mother is very superstitious and takes this horrible fortune to heart. She spends the rest of Jack's childhood teaching him how to cheat at cards so he can avoid his perfidious fate and in so doing, she leads him down the very path of ruin she had hoped to avoid.
Jack knows that there is no such thing as fortune telling. He has been brought up learning every way there is to cheat at cards and learning everything there is about fortune telling. He knows in his bones that tarot is hokum but is unable to unburden himself of the anxiety over his impending doom.
Over the course of the hour we meet Jack and his lady, Lyzzette. Jack travels the world in search of a cure to the curse and takes us along for the ride.
Jack's story is based on Paul's real life adventures. Paul's mother really is superstitious and Paul really was cursed at a young age by a bad tarot reading. Here is the story in Paul's own words:
I was about six years old when my cousin Christy came over to the house in San Francisco. We were about the same age. It was raining outside and we were having adventures exploring the house. We went into my parents room and found my mom's Tarot deck. She had always told me "Those are tools not toys." She believed in the power of the tarot and in fortune telling and magic. So cousin Christy says she will read my fortune. "Turn over two cards and that will tell us when you will die." she says. I pulled a three and a four and she tells me that means I will die when I turn thirty four. That seemed awfully far of to my six year old self but not so far off when I turned 33. I spent a year and a half buckling my seat belt, looking both ways before I crossed the street, and watching out for falling pianos.
All of the stories in the show are true. I really did run with the bulls in Spain and my girlfriend really did run along with me wearing skin tight red pants and six inch heals.
Even the story of Kevin and his father cheating each other at cards is true though when my father and I played it was chess not cards.
How the show came about.
Here is an excerpt from a recent interview with Paul Nathan about the creation of the Devil in the Deck.
In 2002 I did a weekend show at the Shelton Theater in San Francisco called Devil in the Deck. That show was very different from the show we perform now. That show was fully autobiographical, with stories about my life and traveling around the world interspersed with magic tricks that had some relationship to each story. Drew Letchworth was in the audience and inspired me to work on the show to create something we could be proud of. It took years of work and several times mounting the show to get it to where we were happy with it. The stories metomorphed from a bad tarot reading to the worst fortune ever told and my lady love Lyzzette eventually became the focus of the final act.
When Paul was writing the show he had a few things in mind. A southern gentleman as the protagonist and a guitarist playing live. A few weeks after the show opened at Climate Theater in 2003 Paul put and ad up on Craigslist. John Anaya showed up and has been with Devil in the Deck ever since. John and Paul have played together in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Edinburgh, and Dubai.
We produced the show in San Francisco a few times and took it to the Edinburgh Festival in 2010 and 2011 where it played at the Zoo. The show did well with critics and audiences but we were never happy with the production at the theater space. This is the first time playing Devil in the Deck at the Pleasance and we are very excited to present the show on the world stage in a theater that will be comfortable for our guests and will properly showcase our little bit of magic.
History of Devil in the Deck.