Review: In & Of Itself offers lots of stage magic

Magician Derek DelGaudio will hypnotize you with his unique brand of personal storytelling and jaw-dropping illusions


IN & OF ITSELF (Frank Oz). 90 minutes. Now streaming on Crave. Rating: NNNN


Derek DelGaudio calls himself “a storyteller and conceptual magician,” and that about sums up what he delivers in this entertaining feature-length film, taken from his sold-out 2016-2018 off-Broadway show.

DelGaudio isn’t the most relaxed or comfortable performer onstage. In fact, at times he looks downright pained. But considering where his show goes, that could all be a ploy to get us to buy into his particular brand of storytelling magic.

Personal and mythic stories

Much of the 90 minute show consists of tales both personal and mythic. The main one is about “the Roulettista,” a superb Russian roulette player who, much like DelGaudio himself, faces a group of strangers and asks them to define him and suggest what he’s worth.

DelGaudio also recounts how, when he was a kid, his mother came out as a lesbian, and how that forced him to be cautious about who he told. And in one of the most haunting passages, he discusses the time of day when dogs can be mistaken for wolves, and vice versa. These stories can often seem contrived, but they offer a unique way to present his magic, which is simply mesmerizing. (Perhaps DelGaudio is part of a trend; Scott Silven, who’s currently presenting The Journey, interweaves personal stories in a similar way.)

There are slick sleight-of-hand card tricks, an audience participation bit involving people who seem to have received personalized letters from loved ones and a unique sequence in which a gold brick vanishes into thin air, only to reappear… well, I don’t want to give away anything.

Pièce de résistance

The pièce de résistance of In & Of Itself, though, is an extended routine in which DelGaudio goes through the audience and tells dozens of people what identifying card they chose in the lobby before the show began. If you want an idea of how popular this show was, celebrities in the audience include Bill Gates, Tim Gunn and Marina Abramovic.

While a film can’t recreate the excitement of seeing a live show, director Frank Oz captures DelGaudio’s tricks up close. And in a few instances, Oz offers excerpts from different performances to illustrate how consistent DelGaudio is in his effects.

Audience gasps and even cries

A suggestive set – reflecting some of the symbols in his stories – and a hypnotic sound design, occasionally overlaid with audience gasps and even cries, enhances the experience.

You’ll want to replay certain sections of In & Of Itself to see how DelGaudio pulls off a trick. Email me if you have any theories. I was stumped.

@glennsumi

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