During these troublous times, most of us surely can enjoy having a little magic in our lives — even the illusion of magic — so it is wonderful to witness the legerdemain generated by Derek DelGaudio during In & Of Itself, his one-man attraction that has been in residence all summer long at the Daryl Roth Theater. Upon walking into the venue’s foyer, spectators will encounter a wall arrayed with row upon row of little white cardboard tickets. Each one begins with the phrase “I am,” followed by a different brief personal description. Some of these are whimsical: a Damsel in Distress, a Bad Apple, a Rocket Scientist. Others are more prosaic: a Mom, a Teacher, a Helper. Choose one that applies to yourself and hand it to the usher as you take your seat. And let’s not give away anything more about what sort of mind-boggling moment is derived from those identifications late in DelGaudio’s show.
For all of the undeniable wonders that transpire over the next seventy-five minutes, In & Of Itself remains a cunningly low-keyed event, glimmering with a nearly mystical quality. Expect no David Copperfield–type spectacle nor Penn & Teller–ish yuks here. Instead, DelGaudio, a boyish, round-faced fellow neatly dressed in a brown three-piece suit, incorporates half a dozen feats within some intriguing stories and discourse regarding identity, all of which he quietly delivers in a contemplative manner.
After opening the proceedings with a yarn about a Spanish sailor who made his fortune by winning at the deadly game of Russian roulette — eventually with all six chambers of the gun loaded — DelGaudio indicates the seemingly simple setting behind him. It is a wall of gray wood planking interspersed with six windows, each representing a magical deed that he will shortly do for you. For starters, a bottle of wine located within one window somehow, in a sleight-of-hand trick, will be induced to contain a paper boat. There will also be demonstrations of DelGaudio’s brilliance at manipulating a deck of cards; the special delivery of a very personal letter to one flabbergasted member of the audience; the disappearance of a gold-painted brick that relates to a melancholy story about DelGaudio’s childhood — and more.
DelGaudio’s medley of astonishments is heightened by the atmospheric production, directed by Frank Oz, who makes strategic use of Adam Blumenthal’s lighting and the original New Age–y music composed by Devo co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh. All the elements coalesce to lend a gently hypnotic ambiance to DelGaudio’s doings. It is likely that a few would-be smarties among the audience who packed the 150-seat theater the other evening were racking their brains trying to figure out how DelGaudio pulls off his various amazements. But from the awed response of the people around me as the show concluded with a terrific visual surprise, most of us recognized In & Of Itself simply for what it is — magic.
In & Of Itself
Daryl Roth Theater
101 East 15th Street
Through December 30