No matter how cynical we might become, magical performances and tricks just might be one of the few unsullied things that will always elicit the childlike wonder in all of us.
This is certainly a special thought, as it is one well worth exploring for both magic enthusiasts and anyone who appreciates esteemed stage performers. Undoubtedly, the concept of magic, or, as perhaps known by its other names — illusion, legerdemain, prestidigitation, or even alchemy – is not just about pulling rabbits out of a hat, but evoking awe-inspiring emotions out of the observer. And, if done right by a professional magician, the onlooker will be intoxicated with the swooning feeling of having come face to face with the alluring unknown.
Established TV/film actor and prestidigitator, Albie Selznick, known for “Suddenly Susan,” “The Last Tycoon” and the acclaimed, five-year-running production called “Smoke and Mirrors,” has taken charge of getting his magician friends and acquaintances together – who also happen to be the best in the world – to create and host the 2nd annual, summer-seasonal “Magic Monday” at the Santa Monica Playhouse (also produced by Michelle Grant). This is in addition to launching the inaugural “MagicMania” festival between August 17th and 20th at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, CA, which will include five rivetingly stacked shows, and 25 of the foremost craftsmen of deception.
The most recent “Magic Monday” spectacular, on August 14, previewed what’s to come on not only the next two Mondays — on August 21st (with performers Seth Grabel, Mark Wenzel, Max Maven, and Riley Siegler) and the 28th (with Jon Armstrong and surprise guests) – but also revved up expectations for the “MagicMania” extravaganza.
Specifically, the August 14th event illuminated the astounding caliber of talent organized by Selznick, and the extent to which an audience can be raptly engaged for a few hours, inclusive of even the pre-show. For a half-hour before the official start time, the charming Michael Vile, a magician since 1991, got the courtyard-lounging attendees into a wondrous state of mind. Using eclectic items from his antique chest, such as coins, sponge balls, a rope, ring, and wooden sticks – the latter of which were torched with fire on their ends, and effortlessly swallowed – Vile succeeded in firing up everybody’s imagination.
Then, once inside the playhouse, the dapper Jonathan Neal Brown, who once appeared on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show,” entranced the audience with not only his ability to uncannily unfurl tightly knotted handkerchiefs from each other, but with his engaging story-telling ability. This was particularly the case when describing his “Demon Wonder Box” – a beautifully polished stainless-steel contraption where interesting mysteries lurk inside and are subsequently revealed by the gentlemanly Brown.
Thereafter, the likable Steven Himmel, a young magician specializing in mentalism, took the stage, where he disarmingly interacted with willing individuals who got to experience, first-hand, Himmel’s very believable skill of being able to yield outcomes using the sheer force of his mind. This was demonstrated via a rousing playing-card/coat-pocket trick, and by mind-reading certain words memorized by his civilian assistants from a random page in a book. Himmel’s mannerisms and delivery are so plausible that it makes the audience become forgetful of the illusion inherent in his magic, as we volunteer ourselves to the possibility that it might be real.
Last, but not least, the hysterical, quick-witted, and ebulliently charismatic Gregory Wilson main-evented the proceedings. Having performed in nearly 50 countries, Wilson has solidified a bona fide reputation for himself as “The Honest Conman.” It seems ironic, but there is no man or woman more trustable than Wilson, who exercises the power of influence to compassionately pickpocket his volunteers, and even get them to happily relinquish their belongings, as everyone erupts into cloud-nine-laden laughter and smiles so tautly that pulled-back cheeks threaten to never go back to their original form. More so than his bewitching subterfuge, though, what separates Wilson from most is his supernatural control of an audience, even as they become uproariously unhinged by what they’re witnessing.
Certainly, those who have an appreciation for magic, comedy, and feats of dexterity should purchase a ticket to catch the remaining two “Magic Mondays,” and especially the just-around-the-corner “MagicMania,” which will feature magic all-stars such as Dana Daniels from Broadway’s “The Illusionists,” Pop Haydn, a seven-time Magic Castle “Magician of the Year,” Ivan Pecel, a nine-time world champion juggler, Andrew Goldenhersh, a two-time Magic Castle “Parlour Magician of the Year” winner, and much more.
For more information about the last two “Magic Mondays” of the summer season at the Santa Monica Playhouse (1211 4th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401), and about “MagicMania” from 8/17 through 8/20 (555 N 3rd St, Burbank, CA 91502), please visit MagicMondayLA.com and MagicManiaLA.com, respectively.