Eric Starkey has something up his sleeve.
Well, of course he does. He's a magician, for God's sake!
But he's also an actor. And he's putting together a show called "Superheroes & Card Tricks" that makes its Pittsburgh premiere tonight at Bricolage, "the adventurous theater" on Liberty Avenue, Downtown.
"Superheroes & Card Tricks" is more than a play on words. It's a play in the works. Mr. Starkey, working with Bricolage artistic director Jeffrey Carpenter, is creating a show that will amaze and amuse audiences.
"It's sort of my one-man exploration of what it means to be a nerd," Mr. Starkey said. "I have this belief that everyone has something that makes them somewhat geeky or goofy. Whether it's the way they dress when no one else is around or how they sing in the shower. We all have something that makes us a little bit awkward.
"This show is an exploration of that inner nerd. It combines a lot of magic, theater and comedy to explore those moments, those struggles."
Mr. Starkey, 35, of Baldwin, is familiar with those nerdy moments. I mean, he was the teenager doing magic tricks. We're not talking about the star football player here.
"I had always done a few card tricks that I'd learned out of books, and I had a magic set as a kid," he said.
Society leaned on him to go to college and get a real job, which he obligingly did by studying art at Duquesne University. But when he was 17, he met magician Rick Maue, who took him under his wing.
"I performed all through college and part-time while I worked in regular corporate America for several years," Mr. Starkey said. "I started presenting it to real people, you know, outside of my circle of family and friends.
"In 2006, I guess I stopped lying to myself and started lying to paying audiences, and I've been doing it full-time since then. I had worked really hard to make a lot of money for other people. So I figured if I worked equally hard at what I was actually passionate about and what I loved doing most, I could succeed."
To bolster his resume, he spent the summer of 2007 in Chicago, taking part in Second City's intensive-training improv program. He also landed a few acting gigs.
"Not to say that it has been without struggles," he said, "but it's worth it because I get to wake up with a smile on my face."
Which is a trick in itself.
Last summer, Mr. Starkey performed at Bricolage in "STRATA," which finished in a three-way tie for the Post-Gazette's designation of 2012 Play of Year. (The PG's critics can be indecisive.) That's when he met Mr. Carpenter, a collaboration that led to "Superheroes & Card Tricks."
They unveiled a 45-minute version of the show at an art festival last month in Indianapolis. Tonight, the one-man play makes its one night only debut in Pittsburgh.
"The show currently runs just under an hour because it's still considered 'under development,'" Mr. Starkey said. "There are things that you find out only by performing in front of real people. It will be a full-length play in the next few months as we continue to work with it."
OK, so let's say you scramble to Bricolage tonight and pay your $5 to get in. What will you see?
Well, it won't be Superman trying to guess what card you picked from a deck. (Seriously, the guy has X-ray vision, so where's the trick in that?)
Unfortunately, Mr. Starkey won't reveal details about the experience, though he does guarantee that he won't embarrass audience members.
"The audience is involved, but they're not picked on," he said. "Maybe a little embarrassment for me, but none for the audience. They only stand to gain by participating in the show."
Beyond that, he said, "I don't want to give too much away."
"The biggest inspiration is doing original work," Mr. Starkey said. "It's more fulfilling than buying a trick and doing it. But also, from a marketing standpoint, you want to be unique.
"Hopefully, this show achieves that. It got great responses in Indianapolis. The first night it received two standing ovations, one in the middle of the show. I don't feel that it's worthy of that yet, but it's great that the audiences love it. Obviously, that's great encouragement to keep working hard on the show, because I see where the show can go and I'm very optimistic."
Remember, it's one night only. Now you see it (at 7:30 p.m.) ...
If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at email@example.com or 412-263-1456.This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/