Card tricks with a spooky twist

With his thoroughly intriguing and entertaining one-man presentation “Obscura: A Magic Show,” Christian Cagigal proves a fine example of the adage “good things come in small packages.”

Onstage through April in the appropriately cozy Exit Studio in the middle of the Tenderloin, this “evening of short stories and strange happenings” wraps cool card tricks, audience participation, appealing low-tech props and Cagigal’s undeniably irresistible delivery into a one-of-a-kind experience.

It’s easy to see why Cagigal, a theater artist with a long background of punctuating magic tricks with creepy tales (his somewhat similar “Now and at the Hour” last year enjoyed a long run and is being made into a film by director H.P. Mendoza of “Colma: The Musical” fame) has won awards for his unique, compelling display.

Not more than a few dozen audience members fit into the theater. A table on the stage is outfitted with a camera above, which projects the contents of Cagigal’s cards — playing cards, tarot-style cards, vintage photographs and old-fashioned title cards, like the kind in silent movies — onto a screen at the back of the stage.

An eerie, tinkling tune from a music box provides the perfect accompaniment as the stories’ nifty and provocative names — like “The Gambler and the Stranger,” “The Inquisition, “The Four Wishes” and “The Black Envelope” — come up on the screen.

Cagigal tells each story with verve, style and enough bravado to keep folks in the audience on the edge of their seats — aided, of course, by his sleight of hand and magic.

As the show progresses, he selects a few folks from the audience to help with certain tricks and tales.

A consummate showman, Cagigal skillfully works his helpers’ personal backgrounds — their names, residences and vocations — into his act in a way that’s engaging and respectful at the same time. Not only is he clever and quirky, he’s also got the chops to work the small crowd with just the right tone, never condescending or making fun of the people he pulls on stage.

After his epilogue, a story called “A Room for Death,” Cagigal bids his listeners goodbye, happily summing up — “this is my tiniest show ever” — and inviting them back with their friends.


Obscura: A Magic Show

Exit Studio, 156 Eddy St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturdays; closes April 16

Tickets: $15 to $25

Contact: (415) 673-3847,

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