Logic dictates that you’re sitting in the Westside Theater in Midtown Manhattan. There are seats and audience members all around you, so, of course, you are sitting in the Westside.
Yet there’s a sliver, a small part of you, that feels you’ve been transported to the Hogwarts Academy of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And that Harry Potter has taken on the form of Vitaly Beckman.
Beckman is the star of “Vitaly: An Evening of Wonders,” a night you spend with your mouth agape.
• Makes an apple fly through the air unaided;
• Draws a flower on a sheet of paper and somehow pulls a real flower from the pad;
• Makes a brush paint a picture without anyone or anything touching it.
And he does this all in a most appropriate venue: a small theater, not some humongous Las Vegas show room. It’s an intimate setting that seats fewer than 300 people. We all have unobstructed views. Hidden strings and chicanery quickly would become apparent.
How does he do it? Duh. It’s magic. It must be.
Vitaly, who is Jewish, was born in the Soviet Union, in what is now Belarus. It is why, he claims, he sounds like Borat (the character created by Sacha Baron Cohen) and looks like Seinfeld.
But he performs like Houdini. No, that’s not really correct. Houdini was an escape artist. Vitaly is — well I’m not sure how to describe what he does.
At one point, he gets people to offer up their driver’s licenses. They he rubs them and they disappear from their photos. And then they reappear in someone else’s license photo.
He also does his most famous trick, in which he makes a still photo come alive. It’s the trick that catapulted him to fame when he performed it on the Penn and Teller TV show, “Fool Us,” and even they could not figure out how he did it.
Beckman, 36, left the Soviet Union for Israel when he was 8 years old, shortly after Mikhail Gorbachev opened the borders to Jewish emigration. Vitaly has only vague memories of being a “suppressed minority.” His parents — his mom is an economist and his dad is an engineer — had difficulty finding work. And according to the stories he was told, his older brother was regularly beaten by hooligans.
The family lived in Haifa. Vitaly demonstrated early talent in art, but when he was about 14, he fell in love with magic, “because I realized I had ideas I wanted to fulfill in other art forms besides painting.
Unlike what he would have had here in the United States, in Israel he didn’t have access to magic shops where he could buy tricks, and “there was no internet at the time,” he said. “So I started to watch as many magicians on television as I could. I tried to record them and do something similar at family gatherings.”
The lack of access to pre-packaged material proved beneficial to him, because it forced him to come up with original ideas. “It made me become more different,” he said in a telephone interview. “If you don’t walk a paved path, it is more difficult.”
His ideas usually come “in the form of something visual. I observe things. I see falling leaves and I imagine leaves coming out of a painting” — something he does in his show.
He considers himself an illusionist. “But I also think art is an illusion,” he said. “Art is about creating something out of nothing. A painter does it with paint. A musician does it with sound. What I do is very similar. I blur the lines between what is real and what is not.”
It is a mixture of both art and science, he says, though he won’t tell you how he does it, even if you cry and promise to write a story about him.
The moment you would learn how it works, it wouldn’t be as wondrous anymore.”
“Vitaly: An Evening of Wonders” is at the Westside Theater, 407 West 43rd St., through September 30.