REVIEW: Mystic Nights at Zal Gaz Grotto Club

Certain situations seem to arise from mostly nothing, creating a sensation of mystery from mere sights and feelings and sounds. In the event room of the Zal Gaz Grotto Club, there was a heavy, though not unpleasant, smell of red wine; dimmed overhead lights, with strings of Christmas lights bordering the room; a quiet playlist of music going, ranging from the Doctor Who theme to classics from The Beatles; and a thickness to the warm air coming from the heaters.

I sat at table 8 before the show began, reading a science fiction novel. Though distracted by the book, I was aware of my surroundings. However, at some point Misha Tuesday just seemed to appear in front of the velvet curtain, gazing at the audience. I dog-eared the page, and the show began.

It was curious that the mystic’s performance was not based in the showy ways of magicians or mediums; there was no claim of celestial powers beyond that which anyone can obtain through study. He stood before us, a slightly short, unimposing man, and argued he was neither a mind-reader nor a psychic, but a well-read investigator of a world hidden by our need for simple order and logic. I had not been expecting a Ted talk, but it was a good speech.

He went through a whole lineup of what he called “experiments,” exercises where we were meant to allow our latent intuition and sight to come through. There were some card tricks, displays of mind reading, of predicting the future. Nothing quite made sense; he seemed to be able to see with people as they visualized names and places, stepping into their thoughts as one could step into a room. Everything should have had some explanation, but it laid a little ways beyond my reach.

I was called up towards the beginning, and though I had wished to be chosen, when it became reality I was nervous to stand before the audience. I was shown a paper with a list of objects for less than a second. One of the objects was inside of a closed box I held in my hands. With the blank side of the paper facing toward me, he moved a pair of scissors up and down, asking me to tell him where to cut so that he cut through the word of the object in the box. I stopped at a random point (or so I thought). He asked whether I wanted to move a word up, and, the spotlight seeming to beat down on me like an August sun, I said no. The word was uttered quietly; it seemed to slip out of my lips without meaning to. He asked if I wanted to move one down, and I said yes, again unsure why I was feeling so certain and yet maybe not in control, not quite.

The word he cut through was “keys,” and in box was a ring of them. Unsure of what had passed, and unsure of its importance, I walked back to table 8 as the audience applauded my participation.

Was it all the effect of exquisite slight of hand? The power of persuasion? Some passing of unspoken signals between the volunteer and the mystic that allowed Misha Tuesday to command thoughts? I have no idea.

But that was the point of his performance, and of any performance that deals in mystic themes. To know the reasons for everything is to have failed at living meaningfully. Instead, as Tuesday preaches, we must ask questions, but not ask for their answers. There is a certain amount of mystery in the world, and it should be considered, but not attempted to be arranged into the static patterns that dominate society. Wonder is precious in the way it takes us away from the oppressive structure of the rest of our lives, and allows us to imagine, if just for a second, that the things we hold as fact may have many forms.

Emma Pinchak

I'm just a lonely cowboy displaced in the city. I don't feel the same under these dim stars.

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