1/26/2021     IN & OF ITSELF                                          Hulu


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Derek DelGaudio despises labels.


Often referred to as a “magician,” he chafes at the restrictions (and misplaced expectations) that come with that label.  Sure, he excels at illusion and sleight-of-hand, but he wants his audiences to leave his shows with more than a “Wow! That was cool!” reaction.


In 2017, he created a one-man show, In & of Itself, that let him display his considerable “magic” skills while exploring ideas of identity, expectation, and self-definition.  A film of the show (directed by Frank Oz and produced by Stephen and Evelyn Colbert) is now available to watch on Hulu.  And it is a singularly jaw-dropping, moving, and brain-teasing experience that … well, that can ONLY be experienced and not described.


Which puts me in a bit of a quandary.  Sure, I can describe in great detail what he does (but not HOW he does it), I can describe in great detail moments of awe and moments that gave a deep kick to my emotional core.  But…   I cannot do it without (not only) spoiling any (perhaps all) pleasure you will get from it; (but also) I cannot do it without putting my own limiting labels on those moments, a direct violation of the premise of the piece.


So what shall we talk about for the rest of this column?

Well, there are some things I can mention, if not pass judgment upon.  Know that it begins with a story of a man and Russian Roulette that becomes a springboard for the show.  The specifics of that story and its relevance to Mr. DelGaudio (not to mention how it resonates in the structure and appearance of the show) I leave for you to discover.


An audience member (and we see audience members of more than a few performances of the piece) is “kicked out” and asked to return tomorrow.  I will leave for you to discover the why, the task assigned to “Mr./Ms. Tomorrow” and whether or not “Ms./Mr. Yesterday” shows up.


All audience members are asked to select an “I AM” statement prior to taking their seat, a statement that may (or may not) define themselves.  They can be snarky or tongue-in-cheek (I am a Unicorn, I am a Superhero), they can be utilitarian (I am a Mom, I am a Friend, I am an Accountant), they can be deeply (and philosophically) revealing (I am a Reflection, I am a Possibility, I am a Multitude, I am Everything).  How this pays off (besides giving me a title for this piece – a title I will NOT parse for you), I leave for you to discover.  And believe me, it pays off in a way that will make your jaw drop.  Or at least made MY jaw drop.  (I could be wrong, but “I am a Millionaire” looks very much like Bill Gates).


We are actually shown “behind the curtain” of various magician’s secrets, such as the requirement that it takes eight years to learn how to hold a deck of cards, and the singularly profound confession that it isn’t the deal that’s at the root of the trick (or the cheat), but the shuffle, that essentially to succeed one must know the identity of literally every card in the deck (even blindfolded) and be able to place it in the deck wherever you need it to be.  Knowing that may be a “spoiler,” but in no way does it dilute the awe you feel when he demonstrates the skill.


There are several tricks on display, including one with a gold brick that pays off over the end titles,  But the most effective (and affecting) one I won’t mention because, well, it would create an expectation that just may ruin it for you.  Just know it reduced me to tears as it did specific members of his audience(s).


In & of Itself is a devastatingly original play/film  It offers so many questions, the answers of which just may be irrelevant.  How are you defined by the eyes of the world?  Will your autobiography have an unreliable narrator?  Is your “true identity” that which exits in your heart or what is seen by the closest person in your life?  Am I really defined by the things you will never see?  What exactly is the time between dog and wolf? 


Is it worth a subscription to Hulu just to see this?  Once again, I leave that for you to decide.  It is, after all, only your identity. 


--  Brad Rudy  (BKRudy@aol.com   @bk_rudy    #In&ofItself   #DerekDelGaudio)


Preview Trailer for In & of Itself 





Stephen Colbert’s Interview with Derek DelGaudio and Frank Oz