Conjuring Cubans | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Conjuring Cubans 

Conjuring Cubans

One-half of the bill for Conjuring Cubans is Minneapolis-based Derek Hughes, who like Penn and Teller and a handful of the better magicians combines magic with performance art. But unlike Penn and Teller, Hughes doesn't simply offer a hip diversion to savvy audiences sick to death of tuxedoed magicians and showgirl "assistants." Though he's a polished prestidigitator, his magic definitely takes a backseat to his beautiful, touching, semiautobiographical stories. Recounting a relationship gone sour, Hughes signifies dozens of regrets by swallowing a handful of needles one at a time--one for each regret--and several feet of thread. Moments later he pulls the thread from his mouth, and dangling from it like pearls on a string are a dozen or so needles, a glistening emblem of both healing and the creative process, the transformation of pain into artifact. Hughes uses the old newspaper trick--tearing paper into tiny pieces, then magically reintegrating it-- as the background for a moving story of a friend who died young: the restored paper has a bittersweet double meaning, illustrating both the cliche that life goes on and the fact that Hughes can never restore his friend to life. He performs with Antonio Sacre at Live Bait Theater, 3914 N. Clark, 773-871-1212. Opens Saturday, January 4, 8 PM. Through January 11: Sunday-Monday and Thursday-Saturday, 8 PM.

--Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Derek Hughes by Gesk.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

More by Jack Helbig

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
Henchpeople Jarvis Square Theater
July 09
Galleries & Museums
May 28

Popular Stories

  • Book It

    New and recent book releases from Chicago authors and publishers
  • A silence louder than words

    How allegations of sexual abuse exposed cracks in the foundation of Young Chicago Authors, Free Write Arts & Literacy, and the city’s spoken word community
  • Comedy is back, baby!

    A glimpse at how stand-ups coped during the pandemic and made their triumphant return to telling jokes again.
  • Weed Wolf, the tagger

    'No matter how lame or artsy-fartsy it is, I'll take anything over a poo-brown wall'