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A CurtainUp Review
In and Of Itself
Derek DelGaudio (Matthew Murphy)
One of the best things about being a New York based theater critic is that you get to see so many shows just before or after the official opening; in short, when they're still fresh and untested. If a show is at an off-Broadway theater there's just a small window of opportunity to catch up with its usually short run unless there's a Broadway transfer, which is rare for well-received but atypical shows. (The Band's Visit has been an exception).

That brings me to a pair of illusionist-magician shows that opened Off-Broadway last April, both arriving with the buzz about their stars' reputations — not to mention their unique, more one-man-showish approach to this genre's more familiar rabbit-out-of-a-hat multiple trick styles.

Somehow, I missed seeing both Derren Brown: Secret at the Atlantic Theater and Derek DelGaudio's In and Of Itself at the Daryl Roth Theater. I plead guilty to perhaps not trying hard enough to fit them into my schedule since I often find something lacking and self-indulgent in the biographical solo genre; and neither am I a magic enthusiast like Neil Patrick Harris, who is In and Of Itself's executive producer and also directed DelGaudio in Nothing to Hide.

At any rate, despite all thumbs up reviews and enthusiastic word of mouth for both, the British Mr. Brown's American debut was finite since he's constantly in demand in his own country. However, In and Of Itself, kept extending (as it did before that at the Geffen in Los Angeles). And so, with a fourth extension just announced, I decided it was time to finally see for myself what made a planned ten-week engagement stretch out to seventy-two weeks.

Love it or not, In and Of Itself is indeed unlike any bio-solo play or magic show you've ever seen. It has obviously struck a chord with the audience demographic theater producers are so eager to reach. About 90% of the people at the Thursday evening performance I recently attended were couples somewhere between ages 24 and 30. The sprinkling of older people seemed to also "get it" and enthusiastically participated by picking one of the little white cards in the theater lobby, each imprinted with an "I am . . .plus a career or personality identifying tag." (I chose an I am a hangman, probably because Martin McDonagh's new play was still fresh in my mind). At least a third of both young and old stood up and bought into DiGaudio's concluding mentalist trick, if only because it established the connect between him and the audience.

The best way to describe In and Of Itself is as a hybrid of a magic and very personal performance piece. There are just enough tricks to confirm DiGaudio's credentials as a 3-time Academy of Magical Arts Award winning magician — that includes some drop dead sleight of hand maneuvering of playing cards as well as the the above business involving the little self-descriptive cards in the lobby which are used for that slam-bang finale.

When a show runs a while, there's always the question as to whether it's still as fresh as it was at the beginning. From what I could see, this is very much the case, no doubt due the responsiveness and enthusiasm of the audience.

The production designer A. Bandit has done a fine job providing our storyteller-magician with an upstage wall filled with six displays to support the various stories. Adam Blumenthal's lighting and Mark Mothershaugh's original music support the many pauses and somewhat eerie tone. It's all simple enough not to require a lot of technical bells and whistles to keep things functional.

Undoubtedly some magic enthusiasts may wish to see more and showier tricks from this master magician. But they're evidently outnumbered by those who've endorsed this hybrid with it's more traditional storytelling. Their endorsement of this little bit of everything approach has grossed $5 million for its producers.

As for me, I have to admit that I found some of Mr. DeGaudio's self revealing narrative too slow and full of pauses to keep me from looking at my watch several times during the 75 minues. I was bowled over by how effectively he used those identity cards to leave the audience feeling this had all been as much about them as him — that's even though the way he did it was hardly guess-how-he-did-it proof. That said, if Del Baudio could come up with a magic trick to make our government function as smoothly as his little hybrid show, I'd go back and see it all over again.
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In & Of Itself

Written and performed by Derek DelGaudio
Directed by Frank Oz
Original Music by Mark Mothersbaugh
Production Design by A.Bandit
Lighting Design by Adam Blumenthal
Sound Design by Kevin Heard
Theatrical Consultant: Jules Fisher
Stage Manager: Christine Catti
Running time: 75 minutes
Daryl Roth Theatre 101 E 15th St.
From 4/05/17; opened 4/12/17; closing 8/16/18
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer after announcement of 4th and final extension

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