Aunt Mary's Terrible Secret by David Williamson
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii September, 2003)
So, stop me if you've heard this one. David Williamson walks into a bar and says, "I've combined Miraskill with the Gilbreath Principle, spread it out into a three phase routine in which the entire deck has to be dealt through in every phase, and I use it professionally." And the bartender says, "What is this some kind of joke?" Okay, so I made up the part about the bar. Other than that, it's all true, and it's no joke. David Williamson has actually been using this routine to entertain and slay his paying audiences for some 15 years now, having previously published it in limited form for a handful of lectures. As he explains in this wittily written and smartly designed manuscript, he does not use this in formal performance, but rather: "I find myself performing this routine more and more as an after show piece." Although a False Shuffle and Palm are optional refinements, the piece can be reduced to an essentially self-working handling if need be. The three-phase routine describes a proposition bet that builds in progressive degrees of impossibility; to describe it in further detail would be a self defeating effort. Suffice to say that this is a lesson in how thoughtful routining, careful management, subtle methodology, and carefully prepared and polished performance can all combine to result in a surprisingly effective result. All that, and the manuscript is a hoot to read.