This is not a review of the finest theater visit I've ever had, but more of a recap of my emotional journey through it. During my two-day connection with the illusionist Derek DelGuadio's show I felt surges of amazement, fear, pride and relief – and I guarantee that my experience was different from the other attendees.
In this show, an audience member's experience is as personal as they want to make it – and mine was very much so.
As I watched, there were moments when I wished I had a time machine to go over what had 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 that 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.
On my way home, I took a detour through the streets of Hollywood while looking for a certain golden brick but came up empty handed. When I settled into my den, I began writing in the journal that DelGuadio gave me and didn't stop until my story was recorded.
If what I'm describing here 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 personal storyline 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 all relate to you – and what's more is that you'll most likely 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 on Thursday night. It allowed me to return on Friday to witness some of 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 with him and the crowd. Derek later confided in me that I nailed the meaning of the ending and because it was now documented in the journal, it was more real than ever before. I felt pride and relief as I made my way back to my seat – but even more so after our conversation.
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 last night's 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 last night's 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)
In & Of Itself
Created & Performed by Derek DelGaudio
Directed by Frank Oz