As gas prices seem poised to hit $5 a gallon, we wage three wars, and only the poor and almost-poor are called upon to carry the nation's tax burden, couldn't we all use a little magic? If only to lower the cost of oil per barrel? Well, while we can't wave any magic wand to make it all better, you could head to the Skirball for two magical exhibitions that remind us that life could still work out. “Houdini: Art and Magic” showcases the most brilliant of prestidigitators: Peruse artifacts, images (some from his personal collection), Art Nouveau–era posters, playbills, theater ephemera, memorabilia and archival and silent-film footage that tell his magical story. Observe Houdini's tools of the trade: his straitjacket, a milk can, and the Metamorphosis trunk he used as part of his miraculous escape tricks. A re-creation of his famous water torture cell is also on hand. A second, companion exhibition, “Masters of Illusion: Jewish Magicians of the Golden Age,” features once-famous magicians who were innovators in their own right — and often Houdini's competitors in pushing the boundaries of make-believe — but whose names have been lost over the years. While you won't actually learn how Houdini or anyone else accomplished their sleight of hand, you may leave feeling that anything is possible.

Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: April 28. Continues through Sept. 4, 2011

LA Weekly