You may know Frank Oz as the voice of some of your favorite characters, such as Yoda, Cookie Monster, and Miss Piggy. But the man is more than that; he is the director of this exceptional film.
To call Derek Delgaudio’s In & Of Itself just another magic show would be an understatement; this live recording of Delgaudio’s off-Broadway performance combines the power of magic with the power of storytelling, exploring themes of identity and human nature.
I have two passions driving my life forward: my love of movies and my love of magic. I was a magician before I became a film critic, and I still practice magic from time to time, so being able to watch a combination of the art forms is always an extraordinary experience.
This is not your average magic show; while many magicians go for grand illusions of sawing ladies in half or teleporting objects and animals to impossible locations, Delgaudio opts for a much more quiet, grounded magic show.
Instead of wowing the audience with incredible props, visuals, and spectacle, he has a simple onstage setup, and he spends much of the performance telling stories. Delgaudio begins by telling a story about a sailor in a game of Russian Roulette, and he uses this story throughout as a metaphor for himself.
Delgaudio isn’t just a magician; he’s a storyteller, and he interacts with his audience in ways that not many do. A magician's job has always revolved around working with people, and Delgaudio takes the surprise factor magicians offer to new, emotional heights.
When Delgaudio does his magic, it remains enthralling. As a magician, I’ve conditioned myself to view magic tricks through the eyes of a skeptic, but as a lover of magic and wonder, I like to see past that. Therefore, I have so much respect for the craft on display.
One section of the film that speaks out to me is when Delgaudio holds a deck of cards and speaks about how close-up magicians work with cards, learning and practicing sleights, shuffles, and flourishes. It was very relatable for me, and he grounds it in a way that provides non-magicians with a vivid look into our nerdy, beautiful hobby.
His mentalism is also quite surprising. Parts of his performance feel unexplainable, particularly when a random audience member is selected to go on stage and read a letter. Without going into specifics, it is one of the most emotional parts of the movie.
The performance never fails to bring smiles to our faces, whether it’s through Delgaudio’s flawless bottom dealing or the way he connects each performance with the previous night’s and the next. He also doesn’t shy away from going through painful memories of his childhood, using magic to enhance the stories he tells.
While this performance isn’t the best in offering mind-boggling tricks, as there is much more impressive and large-scale magic in Vegas, that doesn’t quite matter. The naysayers may criticize the performance for having more story than magic, but there is magic in story.
Magic isn’t just about showing people a trick where they don’t know the secret; magic is about giving people a special, powerful experience that they will remember forever. The finale of Delgaudio’s performance provides his audience with this in volumes.
Whether you figure out the secret doesn’t matter. The most impressive part of In & Of Itself is how Delgaudio perfectly weaves magic with his themes of identity and how he asks questions about who we are and what leads us to be who we are.
The final act of this performance illustrates the pure magic of identity — it shows how we are all different and beautiful in our own way. I’ve been drawn to magic and film for a while because I want to give people a delightful experience they will never forget.
And when you see this film (now streaming on Hulu), I promise you won’t forget it for a while. Magic and movies provide unique, powerful emotions, and the fact that we get to see a combination of the two is magic in and of itself.