TOO COOL: Louis Pearl, The Amazing Bubble Man, will play the Edgemar Center for the Arts. (Photo courtesy Peter Day)
TOO COOL: Louis Pearl, The Amazing Bubble Man, will play the Edgemar Center for the Arts. (Photo courtesy Peter Day)

Don’t you love to suspend your disbelief for a few minutes every now and then? There are two immediate opportunities to do so right here in Santa Monica, with the magic show “Insomnia” by prestidigitator Derek Hughes at Hotel Casa del Mar, and The Amazing Bubble Man Louis Pearl at Edgemar Center for the Arts.

“Insomnia” is geared more toward adults, but The Amazing Bubble Man will tickle the child inside you while entertaining the kids around you, resulting in giggles, oohs and aahs from all.

I’ve had the privilege of attending a private rooftop performance by Pearl, who lives up to his name as The Amazing Bubble Man. He’s been perfecting his unique art for more than 30 years, and even as you watch him make square bubbles, put bubbles inside bubbles, fill them with fog, create bubble volcanoes, tornadoes and even trampolines, it’s hard to grasp how he does it. If you’re lucky, maybe he’ll put you inside one of his gigantic bubbles.

As an added bonus, Pearl’s lovely wife, Jet Black Pearl, offers her quirky musical talents, involving a beautiful voice, funny lyrics and a mix of unusual instruments.

Grown-ups will love the humor and art of this show, while the kids will be thrilled with the spectacular visuals. It’s the perfect family fare, just right for a weekend’s wonderment.

The Amazing Bubble Man and Jet Black Pearl appear for six performances only at Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, on Saturday, March 1 and Sunday, March 2 at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Reservations (310) 392-7327 or online at


‘Insomnia’ keeps you up


Derek Hughes is a master of sleight of hand; he’s also swift of speech and fast on his feet.

Casa del Mar, that grand hotel at the end of Pico Boulevard, has been looking for ways to introduce fresh programming to entertain overnight visitors and engage the local audience. They’ve brought in a former colleague of mine, KCRW DJ Raul Campos, to spin his lively mix in the gorgeous setting of the Lounge at Casa, in addition to presenting live acoustic music there.

Now they’ve added an out-of-the-box experience by introducing “Insomnia,” an original magic show by Hughes, in the hotel’s Crimson Room, a few steps below ground level.

Preceded by a wine and beer reception (part of the ticket), you proceed to an intimate entertainment space, with no more than 50 people per performance, and when Hughes begins the show, he engages the audience immediately.

A member of the Magic Castle (he was recently named their “Parlour Magician of the Year”), Hughes has quite a following. Given how much fun the show I attended was, I think he’s picking up a whole lot of new fans.

And no wonder! Or should I say, yes, wonder, because no matter how much you’ve trained your eyes to keep track of tricks, you just won’t see them coming. His card skills are very different from the kind of sharpshooting that the unmatchable Ricky Jay presents, but they’re no less mystifying or mind-bending.

He maintains rapid-fire and witty patter as he invites audience members to join him for his feats of psychic prowess and card tricks involving packs and pockets. One amazing trick involves him guessing names that someone in the audience is thinking, writing them down incorrectly, crumpling up and tossing the sheets, then picking them up to reveal the wrong names crossed off and the correct names on the sheet.

At the beginning of the evening I was asked to hold an envelope containing a card, sealed by Hughes into an express mail envelope. At the end of the night, when the envelope was opened, it was impossible to imagine how the card in the packet matched the one selected by the audience member in a final dazzling trick. Trust me, that packet never left my lap. So how did he do it?

That’s the question, and you can try to answer it by going to see “Insomnia.” Why “Insomnia?” Because, as Hughes says, “when you leave, you will be too mystified to sleep, and too amused to care.”

Performances run on select Thursdays and Sundays through April. Reception at 5:30 p.m., performance at 6. Call the hotel for more info, or find “Insomnia” on Eventbrite to purchase tickets, which include two drinks per person and complimentary valet parking. Hotel Casa del Mar is located at 1910 Ocean Way in Santa Monica.


Make it brief


You may never have seen the romantic, melodramatic, classic black-and-white film “Brief Encounter,” which popularized the music of Rachmaninoff while breaking your heart.

No need. The production onstage as part of The Wallis Annenberg Center’s inaugural year of programming takes the film and reinvents it for the stage so uniquely that it is a wholly new experience.

I admit, I made snarky comments when I first saw this on the schedule, wondering how, in an age of Disney musicals like “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast,” a small British theatrical company could interpret an old movie and expect to make it entertaining.

The Kneehigh Theatre Co. showed me. This is one of the most inventive and perfectly staged productions that I’ve ever had the privilege of watching, a blend of romance and humor that richly deserved its opening night standing ovation.

This beautiful and creative mix of live music, filmed projections, movement, acting, and the act of entering a movie screen makes this an event to remember. I highly recommend.

The Wallis Annenberg Center, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. Tickets online at, by phone at (310) 746-4000 or in person.


Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for

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