In & Of Itself
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2018 review by Adam Feldman
Derek DelGaudio’s highly original stage show, which concludes its long run in August, is in a class of its own. The performance includes several marvelous effects and a sequence that highlights its star’s total mastery of card tricks; it is a joy to watch him shuffle through his legerdemain events. But In & Of Itself, directed by Frank Oz, has ambitions beyond wowing you; it uses its illusions in the service of a serious-minded investigation into identity. It is the most personal and emotional magic show I have ever seen—it makes people cry—and DelGaudio’s performance has only deepened during the run. To describe what he does as a magic show at all seems almost like a form of misdirection. It’s not just magic; it’s magical.
Original 2017 theater review by Raven Snook
Depending on your perspective, illusionist Derek DelGaudio's solo outing is either a transcendent meditation on the malleability of identity, or a bunch of pretentious hooey. Objectively speaking, it's both—which beautifully illustrates this two-time Academy of Magical Arts Award winner's point. People (and things) are seen differently in our own mind and the eyes of other beholders.
True, some folks walked out on this deliberately slow-paced show, though many more of us stayed, entranced. If you come expecting a succession of quick, flashy routines and exuberant showmanship, In & Of Itself will confound. But give yourself over to its subtler brand of magic and you should emerge pondering deeper questions beyond, "How the hell did he do that?!"
But you will ask that, too. DelGaudio masterfully performs six illusions, including the sleight of hand he's known for and previously displayed in the two-hander Nothing to Hide, which played Off-Broadway in 2013 after a successful run at Los Angeles's Geffen Playhouse. In & Of Itself enjoyed the same trajectory, but it's a wildly different undertaking, more performance art than magic show, thanks in part to his eclectic collaborators: Muppet master director Frank Oz, producer Glenn Kaino, and Devo front man composer Mark Mothersbaugh.
After entering, audience members choose from a wall of cards marked with various identities, from the literal (paralegal, engineer, parent) to the lyrical (dreamer, life of the party, VIP). Pick wisely, because by the end of the evening everyone in the theater may discover how you see yourself. In between, DelGaudio recounts disparate but allegedly true fables, all enhanced by a half-dozen evocative dioramas set in recessed panels in a wall (a brick mid-crash through a window, balancing scales, a gun-toting automaton).
Some set pieces are more powerful than others. The tale about the prejudice his family faced due to his mother's lesbianism was moving and offered insight into DelGaudio's career path. And his interactions with various viewers, especially Mr. Yesterday—a spectator from the previous day who returns with the show's log book in tow—were imbued with humanity, not hokeyness. But the fable about the wolf and the dogs? Meh. Even though the complementary pre-recorded interview with one of his cardsharp pals was wonderful, and indicates he travels in Ricky Jay–type circles.
If the show sounds like a grab bag of unrelated elements, it eventually coalesces and even bleeds out into real life. (There's something for you to find after the show, if you're so inclined. It will be there.) I'm being vague because it's best to enter In & Of Itself in the dark if you want to fall under its heady spell. Unless this review sounds like total claptrap to you. In that case, stick to David Copperfield.
Daryl Roth Theatre. Created and performed by Derek DelGaudio. Directed by Frank Oz. With DelGaudio. Running time: 1hr 15mins. No intermission. Through June 18.
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