In & Of Itself is the fantastic brainchild of three-time Academy of Magical Arts Award winner Derek DelGuadio. Though it stopped running in Los Angeles a few months ago, the lucky folks in New York will have 10 weeks to catch it at Union Square's Daryl Roth Theatre from April 5 – June 18. A few months ago a good friend took me and the next block of 48 hours was filled with surges of amazement, fear, pride and relief – and I guarantee that my experience was different from the other attendees.
In Derek's show, an audience member's experience is as personal as you want to make it – and mine was very much so. As I watched, there were moments I wished I had a time machine to go over what just happened – and in a strange way my wish came true. You see, at one point of the show I was kicked out of the theater while the rest of the audience saw the finale I could only imagine. I was escorted out the side hatch and asked to come back the next day with a documented recollection of what happened so far – and a theory of how I thought things would play out after I was removed. To be honest, at this point I felt pressure because of what was ahead of me – I now had homework.
But on my way home, I took a detour through the streets of Hollywood to look for a certain golden brick but came up empty handed. If you knew about the brick you would look for the brick because the brick is very important. The truth is, to this day, every time I drive through certain streets in LA I look for that freaking brick. Yes, you could say that I am obsessed with Derek's golden brick!
Anyway, when I got home and settled into my den, I began writing in the journal that DelGuadio gave me and didn't stop until my my memory and creative wells were empty.
If what I'm describing seems strange to you, it's simply because you haven't yet seen In & Of Itself – and you really should. Once you do, you'll want to witness it again and again, because there's so much that you'll miss the first time around.
And when you do see it, do yourself a favor and try to get thrown out when the time is right. I'm convinced that you'll have a better experience for having done so but be warned; it can only be done on your first viewing – it just wouldn't make sense otherwise.
THE HONEST CREATOR
Derek DelGuadio is a writer, magician, performance artist as well as the sole star of the show. His resume is ridiculous and I really don't understand how he's been on the Earth for only 31 years.
In & Of Itself is a meaningful experience that stays with you long after you've walked (or been kicked) out of the theater. The maze of story threads that he weaves are truly personal to Derek but by the end of the show it will relate to you – and you'll leave wiser than you arrived.
His story is unveiled through a series of intertwining chapters with artistic and thoughtful magic pieces throughout. But this is not a magic show – it's an unforgettable experience that has magical elements to support it.
During the chapter in which Derek flawlessly handles a deck of playing cards, he invites you to detect how the impossible is being accomplished as he tells you how he's doing it. Over and over again, he slowly peels cards from the deck dealing seconds, bottoms and using a technique that Dai Vernon himself traveled across the country to learn.
All of this is done with the calmness of Buddha as he shares his story of how he learned the very thing he invites you to poke holes in – but in the end, he is bulletproof.
Though the through line is the same from night to night, there are key points that morph with every performance due to participation of random members of the crowd. At one point of every show, Derek invites one lucky person to publicly guess the finale but in the end, it just makes the true reveal more impactful.
Derek, with his creative partners Frank Oz, Michael Weber, Glenn Kaino and Mark Mothersbaugh have created the 7-layer bean dip of finales that gets more and more satisfying as the next phase engages. Penn Jillette sat in front of me at last night's showing and though his business is magic and he has seen thousands of performers – his smile never left his face. For him and everyone else, it was the perfect combination of seasoned manipulations and compelling story.
"Derek has created the best magic show I've ever seen and that might be damning with faint praise. It's Marcel Duchamp and Andy Kaufman if they could do perfect bottom deals."
BEING MR. YESTERDAY
Looking back, I'm so glad that I was kicked out. It allowed me to return the next day to witness the show I had already seen in a different way. But to be honest, I was scared to death about joining Derek on stage knowing that I'd have to share my journal entry and theories with him and the audience – but in the end, I felt pride and relief as I made my way back to my seat.
The finale could have went in so many directions but the journey it took us on was the right one – with an end point that will stay with us for a long, long time.
Here are a few things that I knew before I saw the show:
1) It is difficult to write a compelling story from the heart.
2) It is difficult to flawlessly perform magical effects and card manipulations.
3) It is difficult to stand alone and capture an audience's undivided attention for 60+ minutes.
4) It is difficult to make good on your promises.
Here is what I learned after I saw the show:
1) In & Of Itself is a gift from what just may be the most honest man alive.
See this show as soon as you can – and once you have I'd love to discuss it with you.
In the meantime, I'll be looking for the golden brick while you're looking for the elephant.
– Mr. Yesterday (The Cryptographer)
Since I wrote this article I visited the home of my talented magician friend Jordan Gold. He told me that he had something that might be of interest to me…and he did. Somehow he had found one of Derek's golden bricks and it was there, in his living room that I actually got to actually touch it.
Ok…so I made out with the brick. Who cares? It just goes to show just how good the experience was!
Now, if you live in New York, do yourself a favor and pick up a ticket. Then, when you get your own brick, we can go on a double date – provided Jordan lets me near his again.
Created & Performed by Derek DelGaudio
Directed by Frank Oz