The Magic of Story: Christian Cagigal Spectacled and dressed in a blazer, white shirt, and dark pants, Christian Cagigal looks like a professor as he stands on stage at the EXIT Theatre and tells his audience, "All magic takes place in one place: your imaginations. Without one, the next 57 minutes of your life will become very, very boring. Ready? Ready?!" The audience yells yes, but nothing they say can prepare them for Cagigal's performance ofNow and at the Hour, in which he guesses precisely what audience members are thinking, has them pick objects in an order that he foresees, and does other funny, mind-blowing feats.
Unlike magic acts that emphasize objects suddenly appearing, disappearing or changing shape,Now and at the Hourcombines memoir and mind-reading (or "mentalism"), as if Cagigal were channeling the narrative oomph ofSpalding Grayand the jaw-dropping skills of the Amazing Kreskin into a much cooler persona. During the hour, he tells his own story and that of his father -- a Spanish immigrant who soldiered inVietnamfor the U.S. government and came back suffering from PTSD and schizophrenia. Cagigal, who grew up in Daly City, learned magic early on as a fun distraction. On stage, he uses things from his dad's military life (dog tags, an old photo) as props for both the show's narrative and his brand of magic. Just don't call them "tricks." That term is so 1950s.
"The term some of us like to try and use these days is not tricks but effects," he says. "I like to call it a certain level of magic realism."
A former member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, Cagigal has performedNow and at the Hourfor three years, and his résumé looks like an acclaimed veteran's. There are the performances of his different shows around the country, the many four-star reviews, and the upcoming movie version ofNow and at the Hourby indie director H.P. Mendoza, who films Cagigal's act and has him interview other magicians about the art of magic. Still, at age 37, Cagigal says his career is at a crossroads.
"I don't have a good sense of my own career until I talk to someone else about it. Other people think I'm wildly successful. I still feel like I'm plodding along trying to make my career happen. I feel like I've reached a little plateau after six, arguably 10, years of plugging through. I'm not rich. I'm not famous." Cagigal laughs as he says that -- the same kind of contagious laughter you hear in his shows.