There are more than a few things that deter me from going up to San Francisco most nights. Traffic, parking, time, lack of necessity… there’s a list. Most days, I’ve been very entertained taking in the cultural delights from Foster City down through Gilroy without feeling I’m missing too much by not including SF in my outings. But, then there’s magic…and anyone who knows me, knows how I feel about magic. The lure of the Fog City Magic Fest performing Feb 10-13th at the Exit Theatre in SF (the inaugural occurrence of what I hope to be an annual event) in the end, was too much to keep me from the adventure.
With a trusty companion and her tiny swift vehicle and an expressly conjured magic/mystery/tricky playlist, we left San Jose for the Tenderloin on a Wednesday, just a little proud and excited for our own Houdini like escape from the banality of routine and empty excuses. Our first shock of the night came in the form of Wednesday night at 7pm proving a breeze traffic-wise followed by shock two of parking just $10 in a secure lot, (leave the key with the attendant) right next door to the theater. We scooted effortlessly into the packed theater at 8pm on the dot and even enjoyed a few minutes to spare; time enough for me to locate the “well that was easy” button.
The space itself if you haven’t been is intimate (80 seats) and REALLY well suited for magic. Easy access to the audience (for the multitude of volunteers needed), café treats (cash only) allowed inside the theater (YES!), temperature controlled, basic but comfortable seating and great sight lines.
Opening night was a real treat with several magicians performing shorter sets. The talent was solid and the variety fantastic! We got samples of everything from mind tricks, sleight of hand, and twists on old-fashioned magic standards, to escapes, physical feats and LOTS of comedy. Everyone in the audience from the millennial to the grandmother was an excellent sport, adding to the lighthearted and relaxed vibe of the room. There were gasps and amazed laughs and plenty of head shakes in disbelief. The magic showed up… in spades and we left with the onset pains associated with “awe jaw.”
One has to search a bit for magic in the Bay and the real beauty here (aside from, you know…. MAGIC!) is that the 4 day festival is curated with some really great, tried and true, impressive talent, with something for everyone, at affordable prices. There’s an art to effectively accomplishing illusions to be sure, but it’s not just a single skill. The theatrical elements are really no different from any theater event. There’s a required showmanship that accompanies the skill and agility of being a magician. There’s careful character crafting, prop design esthetic, and a sixth sense about your audience. Indeed there’s an art to picking the RIGHT volunteer. And, there’s pacing, build and flow, (all executed very well last night) that can make or break a performance so easily.
I saw The Illusionists Broadway tour, and I have to say, this event was honestly much more appealing, better staged and it genuinely felt special. There’s a sense of privilege that these artists are sharing their magic with you/for you. It’s so much more about the magic than it is about the magician and I love that aspect; somehow the ego appears removed even when a magicians ego is at the center of an “act”…a lovely, layered, comic duplicity that says look what can be done, not what “I” did.
The rest of the festival is primarily single performers, with the exception of closing night on Saturday which does host a multi-artist cabaret style format. I don’t think you can go wrong with ANY of the performances to be honest, and if I weren’t triple booked this week, I’d have a pass and be there every day and night of the fest. True, the specific location is unsavory in my mind, but given my stellar experience last night, I wouldn’t be deterred from future excursions in the least.
Magic has a way of shutting off the limitations in your brain. It’s a catalyst for possibility and a great magic show can put you in a realm of YES for days afterwards. Witnessing the seemingly impossible, makes everything else around you, POSSIBLE; and that’s a place I like hanging out. Fog City Magic Fest is an open invitation to possible and I encourage you to take them up on the invite. 4 ½ jewels out of 5 in the review tiara for a spectacularly fun evening of surprises.