What are you most afraid of? Posing that question directly to the audience at the outset of his “Smoke and Mirrors” theatrical magic show at the Promenade Playhouse in Santa Monica, Albie Selznick establishes the evening’s unifying theme: overcoming fear as a motivator for extraordinary achievement.
As an actor-magician, Selznick sports fine credentials in both domains — he’s a company member of NoHo’s the Road Theatre (which co-produced this show) and a lifetime member of the Magic Castle in Hollywood — although it’s predominantly his experiences in the latter capacity that propel this 90-minute semi-autobiographical narrative threading feats of illusion and legerdemain.
Without unduly compromising the element of surprise, suffice it to say up front that the magic tricks — whether transforming objects, levitation or demonstrating telepathic powers — are first rate, and executed by Selznick and his assistants (Brandy LaPlante, Rob Martinez and Bettina Zacar) with matter-of-fact assurance that belies the intricate sleights-of-hand involved. Selznick’s low-key, self-deprecating humor makes the wizardry all the more impressive. Under Paul Millet’s direction, tongue-in-cheek, spooky video and musical atmospherics further situate the presentation in the hip, self-aware magic realm.
What most distinguishes “Smoke and Mirrors,” however, is the personal connection that Selznick explores between his life and his art, starting with his turning to magic at age 9 to fill the hole left by his father’s death.