Autobiographical solo performances may sometimes seem to be a dime a dozen in L.A. (or at the very least during Fringe Festival season), but when was the last time you saw an autobiographical magic show by one of the finest actors in town?

Unless you’ve caught Albie Selznick’s Smoke And Mirrors, the answer is probably “No”—all the more reason not to miss this hour-and-a-half of mysterious card tricks, furniture and humans levitated without a cord in sight, and handkerchiefs turned into birds of many colors, birds, birds, and more birds, enough to fill a mini-aviary, or at least a very large cage. Add to that an otherworldly Oracle (who’d make a terrific stand up comedienne if only she had legs to stand up on instead of just a gigantic, balloon-shaped head), a human-sized bunny rabbit, and a poignant coming-of-age story and you’ve got one uniquely entertaining show, directed with panache by Paul Millet.

 Selznick The Actor is a recent Best Ensemble Scenie winner for his dynamic work in The Water’s Edge, about which I wrote, “Like Paul Newman and George Clooney, Selznick is the sort of actor who makes it look so easy that you forget he’s acting, and his performance as the self-centered yet still somehow caring Richard is one of his best.”

Selznick The Magician goes back to Albie’s childhood, during which time the study of prestidigitation served to ease the pain of a young boy’s father’s death and began Master Selznick’s adolescent dream of becoming a member of the Magic Castle, of which he is now a lifetime member no less.

 Aiding Selznick amongst the smoke and the mirrors (interestingly, I didn’t notice either at Sunday’s performance) are Bettina Zakar inside the fur of Albie’s imaginary childhood friend/rabbit Trixie, Beck Black as Bessie Houdini (whose late great husband Harry pops up on film), Cody Bushee warming up the audience as Cody, and understudy Leeann St John, a hoot and a half as The Oracle who does a kind of spectral Burns and Allen routine with Selznick. (Turns out St John actuallyis a standup comedienne!)

Oh, and there’s audience participation as well!

 Out of her rabbit suit, Zacar scores high marks for Smoke & Mirrors’ props, sound, and lighting, all of which aid immensely in the experience as do Julianne Dodds’s costumes, Adam Flemming’s projection design and Jay Lee’s original video design, which features actual footage of the one-and-only Harry H. himself and at one point has Bessie turning from film to live and back (despite a brief technical glitch at the performance reviewed) .

Randall J. Gray is stage manager as well as lighting and sound board operator. Michelle Grant is producer.

 The website for Smoke And Mirrors asks the question “What are you afraid of?” For years it seems Albie Selznick kept his magic skills hidden deep inside his actor’s closet. Fans of his work on stage and TV can rejoice in his “coming-out” as the writer-star of the ever so enjoyable Smoke And Mirrors.

The Promenade Playhouse, 1404 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica.

–Steven Stanley
October 7, 2012

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