Elephant Room

Geoff Sobelle



Steve Cuiffo, Trey Lyford, and Geoff Sobelle of Elephant Room. Photo by Greg Costanzo.


Photo by Greg Costanzo.

"I began as a magician, continued as an actor, and arrived as a clown," says theater artist Geoff Sobelle. He honored his roots with Elephant Room, a multilayered show about three magicians that simultaneously presented itself as a real magic show and a hoax. In Elephant Room, Sobelle and his collaborators Trey Lyford and Steve Cuiffo appeared on Mimi Lien's set, which Sobelle described as "a seedy, desert-motel, nicotine-stained club atmosphere mixed with David Lynch." The magicians toyed with audience expectations and assumptions, depicting characters that performed seemingly transparent magic tricks to earn easy laughs from their viewers, even as they executed mystifying feats of levitation, mentalism, and other types of magic. A website with detailed histories, offering fictional tales as truth, reflected the inherent deception that is prevalent in the world of magic—a major theme in the work. "This piece is an ode to the bizarre old men that I spent my teenage years with," writes Sobelle. "These guys were 'entertainers' but insisted they were 'artists.' With Elephant Room I [had] the exhilarating opportunity to traverse and play between the lines of art and entertainment."

Elephant Room had its world premiere at the 2011 FringeArts Festival. The show was then performed at Arena Stage and Los Angeles' Center Theatre Group, both of which also supported its development. The piece later moved to St. Ann's Warehouse in New York, where the New York Times declared it "delightfully daft," and to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.