How Off-Broadway’s In & Of Itself Transforms Illusion Into Emotion

Special Features   How Off-Broadway’s In & Of Itself Transforms Illusion Into Emotion
Award-winning magician Derek DelGaudio and Frank Oz join forces to create an evening of wonder that builds to a soul-stirring experience.
Frank Oz and Derek DelGaudio
Frank Oz and Derek DelGaudio Matthew Murphy

“I’m not drawn to magic. I’m not a magician person. I really don’t care about magic. I don’t care how it works. I’m not a buff. But, as an audience member, I delight in it,” director Frank Oz says while discussing his work steering Derek DelGaudio through slippery, cerebral, smoke-and-mirrors show In & Of Itself, currently playing at the Daryl Roth theatre Off-Broadway.

After being voted Magician of the Year two years running (2012 and 2013) by the Academy of Magical Arts, DelGaudio and Helder Guimarães went to Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse with Nothing to Hide in 2012. Extended 18 weeks beyond its scheduled one-month run, it became one of the five highest-grossing shows in the theatre’s history. When the Geffen asked for a solo sequel, the result was In & Of Itself, which opened in New York April 12. Tony winner (and magic enthusiast) Neil Patrick Harris is among the show’s producers.

It could just as easily be called Six Chambers in Search of a Story. DelGaudio’s set is a wall with a half-dozen displays, each containing a symbol that invites a backstory—a mechanical figure with a gun, a gold brick, a set of scales, a bottle, a wolf, and piles of mail. The show connects the art of magic with the power of storytelling.

“Most magic is about the ability of the magician to perform it—that’s usually what the trick is about,” says DelGaudio, “but, for me, it’s more interesting to use magic the way a writer uses words or a painter uses paint to express something. The magic is definitely in service of the idea, which usually is expressed through language.”

Adds Oz, “The bottom line is that Derek and I want people to leave thinking more, as opposed to ‘What do you want to have for dinner now?’ We want to leave the audience with a raised consciousness. Usually after a person leaves, it’s, ‘How’d he do that?’ That’s the last thing we want. The intent is more to kinda open up the inside of your soul a tiny bit so something can come out that you haven’t ever seen before. Those tricks support an internal story that’s affecting the audience.”

Tricks may not be the word for it, Oz fine-tunes. Illusion comes closer for DelGaudio. “Trick isn’t right because the word itself is to fool or deceive you. That’s like showing you a photograph and saying, ‘That’s not really a picture of that.’ ‘Well, I know. It’s a photograph, and I made it to show you.’”

Maybe trick is just a word that works on the other side of the footlights, Oz slyly suggests. “It could be a trick the audience plays on itself. They come in expecting something, and they trick themselves because of that expectation. Then—hopefully, eventually—they realize, ‘Holy cow! This is something else completely different.’”

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