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The enormously entertaining 2008 encore presentation of Joshua Lozoff: Beyond Belief, produced by Chapel Hill-based Ghost & Spice Productions and continuing March 28-30 and April 2-6 and 10-12 at Manbites Dog Theater in Durham, is playing to packed houses — just like last year. Indeed, tickets are available only for the newly added April 10-12 performances. (The March 28-30 and April 2-6 performances are sold out, but there is a waiting list for each performance. For details, see http://www.manbitesdogtheater.org/232/.)
Before you can say abracadabra, hocus pocus, or even shazam, former stage, screen, and television actor-turned-magician and consummate illusionist Joshua Lozoff has each night’s audience completely under his spell. His impressive repertoire of card tricks, often performed with the assistance of a volunteer or two from the audience, demonstrates an original and very funny twist to some of the familiar routines performed by generations of magicians. The plus here is Lozoff’s storytelling skills. To provide transitions between tricks, Lozoff humorously recounts his eventful education in the art and craft of close-up magic, illustrated by a series of color slides projected on an overhead screen.
Nattily attired in a black suit and burgundy shirt, Joshua Lozoff is the very image of a magician, wiry and intense, with his jet-black hair and moustache and goatee giving him a look that, depending upon the lighting, is either pleasantly exotic or positively diabolical. Indeed, Lozoff had great fun striking sinister poses to spoof the flamboyant attitudes assumed by some of his more histrionic peers.
Joshua Lozoff: Beyond Belief begins with a breezy video prologue, comprised of an amusing series of (wo)man-on-the-street interviews on the subject of magic. This video and at least one trick, involving red foam balls that miraculously multiply in a youthful volunteer’s hands, which are cupped tightly together, seem to be the only repeated segments from last year’s show. (These balls are like the title characters in “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode of the original “Star Trek” TV series.
Director Melissa Lozoff, who looks quite fetching in a red harem costume, stages the show with brio and even triumphs over adversity in a folded-napkin trick in which important things go hilariously awry while she stands side by side with her husband, Joshua, mimicking his every move as she tries to duplicate one of his tricks. She also has enhanced the audience’s enjoyment of the show with choice bits of monkey business and special lighting effects and an over-the-magician’s-shoulder camera for viewing Joshua Lozoff’s card and coin tricks and other spectacular sleight-of-hand maneuvers on an overhead video screen. Magician’s assistants Susan Robinson and Mike Fliss also help Joshua and Melissa Lozoff leaven this unforgettable evening of magic tricks with a liberal dose of slapstick comedy.
After digging deep into his bag of tricks in Act One, Lozoff avidly explores the psychic connections between himself and audience members in Act Two. He literally took Ghost & Spice’s Thursday-night audience Beyond Belief as he seemingly read the minds of a series of random volunteers whom he somehow maneuvered, with his mind, into doing all sorts of things.
Performing on a splendid set by Jeff Alguire, under the intimate lighting of Andy Parks, Joshua Lozoff and company convince even the most cynical of reviewers and veteran Triangle theatergoers that magic is truly afoot in the world. There is an inscription on the state-government mall side of the Pink Palace (N.C. Department of Public Instruction building) in downtown Raleigh that says, “You are suitable to be awed.” Lozoff did just that for last night’s audience by upping the oh-wow factor in Beyond Belief until he truly had us all believing in magic.
To describe Joshua Lozoff’s tricks in too much detail would be to rob future audiences of the pleasure of discovering for themselves the consummate craft and artistry of this marvelous magician and illusionist, who not only demonstrates his dexterity and imagination in Joshua Lozoff: Beyond Belief, but seems also to possess psychic powers that surprise and delight adults and children alike. Call Manbites Dog Theater today, before all the remaining tickets for the rest of the run … disappear.
Ghost & Spice Productions presents Joshua Lozoff: Beyond Belief Wednesday-Saturday, March 26-29 and April 2-5, at 8:15 p.m.; Sunday, March 30 and April 6, at 3:15 p.m.; and Thursday-Saturday, April 10-12, at 8:15 p.m. at Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina. $15 Wednesday-Thursday and $20 Friday-Sunday. Note: The March 28-30 and April 2-6 performances are SOLD OUT, but there is a waiting list (see http://www.manbitesdogtheater.org/232/ for details). 919/682-3343 or click here. Joshua Lozoff: http://www.deep-magic.com/. Ghost & Spice Productions: http://www.ghostandspice.com/. Manbites Dog Theater: http://www.manbitesdogtheater.org/221/. Joshua Lozoff Interview (from the March 14th broadcast of “The State of Things” on North Carolina Public Radio): http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/sot0314b08.mp3/view.