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Review: Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself

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Credit: Hulu via Variety

What, when, why, where, and how are definitely all questions you will be asking upon watching In & Of Itself.  But performer Derek DelGaudio only really wants you to ask, “Who?”  Not necessarily who he is, though that revelation is central to his performance, but instead who you are, what others see, and how labels of identity affect us all. 

Directed by Frank Oz, In & Of Itself is a film of a stage production that ran for 552 shows in a small theatre in New York.  This is emphasized, and the atmosphere set, by the title card that states you should take a moment to turn off your phone and silence any distractions – but follow this direction, it will make the experience that comes after more immersive and enjoyable.  You are about to become part of an audience, and if you’ve been missing the ability to attend live theatre, this may be as close as you will get right now.

DelGuadio starts with a short monologue that introduces the idea of identity early.  “It’s not enough to have a name, people need something to call you,” he says.  And while not everyone gets to play the part they wish he notes, “We all learn to embrace our illusions of identity.”  That is exactly what this show is all about: illusions – both literal and metaphorical, and identity.  For a magician (though that seems like the wrong word) like DelGuadio, he’s trained to hide his identity, trained to conceal reality and manipulate others to see only what he wants them to see.  There are other reasons for this as well that he reveals over time.  However, one man gave him a label that seemed to fit, that for this show he embraces.

Derek DelGuadio is a master at sleight of hand, an illusionist that succeeds in his ability to distract you with tricks while also revealing a powerful philosophical question about who we really are.  In fact, Delgaudio is also much more than a magician, he is a born storyteller, a nuanced performer who has an ability to enthral his audience whether it’s in a theatre seat or on your couch.  Though all these attributes are labels and those, as you will learn, take on a whole new meaning now.  

Frank Oz in his direction places you as close to participation as possible.  He allows for the emotion that the show requires, sometimes following Delgaudio in close proximity while at other times closing in on audience members for their reaction.  So much of this show is really dependent on the audience experience (look closely and you may see a couple of familiar faces).  Oz allows time for empathy, for silence.  He largely lets DelGuadio do his thing, but doesn’t make it easier on him, with close-ups of the performer’s hands during his card tricks that ask for mistakes to be made.  It’s a perspective you wouldn’t necessarily get even in the live show and a new way to experience it for those who perhaps have already.

Does this film lose some of the intimacy that you might have experienced in a theatre setting? Absolutely.  There is not a doubt in my mind that the wonders you experience in your living room would only be heightened sitting in that theatre but this is the next best thing and simply captivating.  Just before the awe-inspiring finale, DelGaudio says, “True identity is that which exists within one’s own heart and is seen by another.”   A sentiment that truly struck me.  Sure, if you don’t want to delve deep into the philosophical with DelGaudio, that’s okay.  You’re still sure to be stunned by the magic alone. But if you open your mind just a little further, you might find yourself asking that question, “Who?” and learning more about yourself in the process.  

Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself is currently playing on Hulu if you are in the U.S.  Otherwise, it can be found on some digital platforms (such as iTunes).

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