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Review: 'Derek DelGaudio's In & Of Itself' transcends the body and spirit

Courtesy of Hulu


Not your average magic and illusion presentation with animals crawling out of hats, or sensational stunts performed in crazy succession, Derek DelGuadio’s hit Off-Broadway show “In & Of Itself” presents a more wholesome and poignant experience. Directed by Frank Oz (who also helmed the staged show) and pieced together over several taped performances from the wildly successful 500+ show run between 2017 and 2019, “In & Of Itself” - a one man show conceived by DelGuadio - has plenty of traditional tricks ranging from slight of hand card illusions, and one jaw-dropping teleportation sequence. But at its core, the play is a study of existential crisis that becomes more transcendent and sophisticated the further it goes.

DelGuadio forgoes the usual “gotcha!” magic tricks for somber moments of unity. He uses the platform as an avenue to explore how others think and tell wondrous tales about his life, dubbing himself the “Roslettista” after a roulette player who constantly tested his luck playing the game, a metaphor that blossoms into the very symbolic meaning of his performance.

Told over a brisk 90 minutes, DelGuadio packs the show with plenty of whirlwind illusions and soft autobiographical asides, recounting narratives (DelGuadio is a master of storytelling) about hustling card sharks and the manifestation of gold bricks, but none strike a nerve quite like his childhood discovery that his mother was gay. That latter story has a tremendous, emotional payoff in the film’s stunning finale, though it's the nuance and cadence in how the message is delivered that really hits home.

Oz keeps things moving, aptly splicing in footage of past performances to help layer DelGuadio’s overall goal. For example, each night during the show’s run, DelGuadio would ask a volunteer to take a book home with them, leave early, imagine how it ended and then return the following night to see their vision come true. Though I have some logistical questions on how this book (after 500+ shows) managed to find its way back into the theater each night (what if someone got sick or, I dunno, just stole it?) It’s impressive nonetheless, and Oz throws several inclinations of this sequence into the film to hammer home that each performance was truly unique.

In a way, it sucks watching “In & Of Itself” from home because DelGuadio radiates with an infectious energy - not to mention we’re all stuck in quarantine purgatory - you wanna be in the room where it happened. But for now, Hulu has done a solid by dropping the film in this dark winter, where we could all use a ray of sunshine. Sure, if folks dug deeper enough they could debunk some of the righteous scenarios, but “In & Of Itself” transcends expectations on how magical illusions can alter our appreciation of society, each other, and everything in between. That’s something no Google search can rectify.

Grade: B+

DEREK DELGUADIO’S IN & OF ITSELF debuts on Hulu Friday, January 22nd


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