Strange magic of Christian Cagigal

“Strange things will happen and dark stories will be told,” says magician Christian Cagigal of “Obscura — A Magic Show.”

Billed as “an intimate and engaging evening fraught with wonder, mystery and imagination,” the show, opening today, consists of a series of short close-up acts of magic, woven together by either Cagigal’s own stories or adaptations of stories by other musicians.

Cagigal, 34, who is currently artist in residence at the EXIT Theatre, has been doing magic for the past 23 years. A former member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, he first came out as a solo performance artist at the 2003 Fringe Festival.

After his return to the festival earned him the coveted 2004 Best of Fringe Award and a host of superlative reviews, he began to mount his highly acclaimed magic shows on an annual basis.

Four years ago, Cagigal took his first steps into the world of the mysterious, dark and strange.

“Most magic shows are self-­glorification,” he insists. “I hate that. I want to make the experience of magic a shared one, where we all get to live in a fantasy together. To make that possible, I spin a potent form of theater that creates a unifying experience.”

While Cagigal’s last few shows have been large-scaled, cohesive experiences, “Obscura” visits the more traditional world of short magic segments.

“I love all of the short pieces I’ve been collecting all these years,” Cagigal explained by phone. “Up to now, there has been no home for them. So I’ve created a show that allows me to play and perform them.”

Why delve into the dark and mysterious, rather than keeping the show rabbit-out-of-the-hat light?

“It gets under the skin a little better,” he says, “and puts people in the right frame of mind to think about magic. When a show is light and happy, which I love, people can dismiss it. But the darker approach has a wonderful ability to affect people emotionally and psychically, because I genuinely play with their beliefs and opinions about magic. The darker approach, which has involved tarot cards, voodoo cards, and such magic tricks as the one I’ve posted on YouTube that shows me shoving a 12-inch hat through my arm, helps it become a potent form of theater.”

Cagigal’s last show, for example, explored his childhood relationship with his shell-shocked father, who became schizophrenic after fighting in the Vietnam War. His father’s flights of fancy led his son into weird realms, and eventually into the magical world of time travel. Where Cagigal will lead us in “Obscura” has yet to be revealed.

Obscura — A Magic Show

Where: EXIT Cafe, 156 Eddy St., San Francisco
When: 8:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; closes Aug. 14
Tickets: $15 to $25
Contact: (415) 673-3847,

artsChristian CagigalentertainmentEXIT TheatreOther Arts

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