by Adam Cohen
Apples floating from one bowl to another with hands-free teleportation. Seemingly unrelated lines are drawn and magically combine to form a new image.
Vitaly Beckman is an astounding magician and illusionist. He’s created a fun evening that will dazzle audiences of all ages with tricks that impress. The engagement Vitaly: An Evening of Wonders is presented at the Westside Theatre by Daryl Roth. He’s in the same theater Penn & Teller were in 30 years ago which is nice considering he impressed them mightily on their TV show “Penn & Teller Fool Us.”
The evening combines sleight-of-hand tricks, mentalist feats, and illusions of telekinesis and metamorphosis with playful banter, audience participation, video projections and live-feed camerawork, in Vitaly’s uniquely signature style of intimate-scale magic. Working on a mostly bare stage with a few tables and chairs, backed by a projection screen, he demonstrates, with modest props, a series of charmingly baffling illusions.
He brings art to life a number of times in extremely creative and amazing ways. Using a large sketchpad and black marker, and a sheet of green paper, Beckman creates line drawings of flowers and leaves that turn colors, then transform into the actual flora and float off the page. He creates imagery with a paintbrush that paints by itself.
The grand finale involves audience members thinking of someone. Vitaly then makes figures appear and disappear from photographs and drivers’ licenses, collected from willing audience members. Perhaps the audience suggested person will appear, as well.
Vitaly banters smoothly– “I grew up in the Soviet Union. So I sound like Borat but look like Seinfeld.” He jokes about charging audience members for props. Magic is a tough act for theater. There’s no cheese here. The show is properly timed for 80 minutes, although some of the tricks do get a bit repetitive without a huge build. However, his tricks are truly impressive and he’s an engaging performer with a huge future.
Westside Theatre Upstairs (407 West 43rd Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues), for a strictly limited engagement through Sunday, September 30, 2018