Talking about his one-man magic show, “Obscura,” Christian Cagigal is clear about one thing.
“It's not tigers coming out of boxes," says the Bay Area magician and theater artist, who brings the intimate show to Aurora Theatre Co. for 15 performances beginning Wednesday. Asked for details, Cagigal is elusive — which is how it should be for a performer whose stock in trade is mystery and wonder. Cagigal will say that “Obscura,” which Aurora is presenting in its new Harry's UpStage performance space, is a “close-up magic show,” one that blends card magic, illusion and narrative.
“It's all very intimate magic,” he says. “I tell stories about death and war and the devil.”
Tarot cards, antique playing cards and old photographs also play significant roles. Cagigal performs the show under a camera.
“It's right over my hands, on a little boom arm, so my little tiny magic show becomes a huge event projected on the wall behind me,” he says. “I use it to my advantage, so you can see little details in the items I use.”
Storytelling is a major component. So are moments of audience participation.
“It starts as storytelling,” he says, “but someone may end up being one of my stories.”
A Bay Area native, Cagigal has always loved magic — he cites David Copperfield's early work, “Night Court” actor-magician Harry Anderson, and comedic storytellers such as Richard Pryor as influences.
His brand of magic represents a departure from the big, Vegas-style shows that people tend to associate with the genre.
“There's been what has come to be a very traditional style of magic — big stage illusions, lots of pyrotechnics, lots of spectacle, lots of cutting women in half,” Cagigal says. “I love that stuff, but I wanted to mix magic and storytelling theater, so I had to find a different route. My stuff is much more minimal and story-driven.”
Cagigal developed “Obscura” at San Francisco's Exit Theatre, where he's been an artist in residence since 2006. He's been performing it at the Exit and at regional festivals ever since.
As he prepares for its latest revival, Cagigal says he's thrilled to be back onstage with “Obscura.”
“It's not the most lucrative job, but I'm just happy to get paid to travel around and tell stories and do magic,” he says.
“I'm doing what I love.”