In & of Itself is a lyric poem by Derek Delgaudio. The performance details the events that characterize a man’s quest through the illusion of his identity, which the adapted performance reveals, is also an illusion. The piece chronicles Delgaudio’s struggle to find out who he is. The acts depicted by Delgaudio, who is the main and only character, include stories and deeply personal events that add to the gravity of the production’s central theme. In & of Itself creatively expands DelGaudio’s personal journey into a collective experience that prompts audiences to confront the limitations of their identities.
Derek DelGaudio’s desire to reveal the truth is odd for the start of an illusionist’s performance. The story is a valiant effort in the blending of narration and ideas as demonstrated by inclusion of personal stories and captivating illusions in the work. While the protagonist is focused on revealing the truth to audiences, the perfromance tests a theory. Even though illusions can be used to impress audiences, they can be used to demystify misconceptions regarding the practice of magic and force audience members seated in the dark to face the reality of their identities.
The film begins with people walking through a hallway filled with cards hanging on the walls. They are confronted by a message that emphasizes how identities are perhaps the world’s most widespread illusions (Oz, 2020, min 5). Each spectator picks a card and fills it with what they believe to be their true identity. DelGaudio’s first appearance marks the beginning of the process where he sets up for the grand finale, in which the labels will be re-introduced. The illusionist transfixes the audience with tales as he performs awe-inspiring tricks. DelGaudio appears shaky at first, perhaps in an attempt to disarm the audience, as he recounts a tale of a man who gambled his possessions every night while carrying a loaded gun (Oz, 2020, min 23). DelGaudio proclaims that he is the man and thus signals to the audience that it needs to pay close attention to his actions for clues of his meaning.
The ensuing acts serve as a guide to the final reveal. The trick involving a whiskey bottle could reflect DelGaudio’s alcoholic past, thus triggering the emotions of those in the audience that identify with the vice and its impact on their lives (Oz, 2020, min 31). The brick and the shattered window serve to highlight the bullying he had to endure after his young mother revealed that she was gay (Oz, 2020, min 43). Judging by the audience’s reaction, it is evident that some people can relate to the ordeal. It should be noted that while some of the allegories do not resonate with the audience, a majority of the stories and illusions impact the people in attendance in ways that they seldom experience in magic shows.
The expert direction by Frank Oz brings DelGaudio’s performances to life in addition to making the theatrics associated with seemingly mundane tricks appear insightful. One of the challenges with watching magic tricks is the fact that at the start, they are exciting and enchanting. However, after repeated displays, the impressive aura fades as audiences choose to forget or argue about how a particular trick was accomplished. There is no gravitas to the act after the magician puts away his rabbit-laden hat. In & of Itself differs from common trickery in view of the fact that it has a central overarching theme. The film’s purpose is to engage the audience in a quest for self-discovery. The people’s identities intersect with stories that they did not create but are somehow intuitive and truthful.
Oz’s insight is evident in the way seemingly disjointed ideas are assembled into a unique exploration of the protagonist’s quest for meaning. In addition, Oz facilitates the expansion of specific aspects of the show and the deepening of the story’s personal moments. For instance, the director incorporates home movies of the young magician and his single mother. The aforementioned scene prompts audiences to contemplate how the protagonist’s childhood trauma contributed to the formation of his identity.
The exhilarating illusions are used to exemplify reality. The experience DelGaudio generates is not meant to be taken literally, seeing as it results in a truthful connectedness in the audience. The illusionist cleverly constructs the experience around the theme of identity and incorporates deeply personal moments of his life in order to prompt the audience to look inward. The resultant effect is often likened to an epiphany because audiences feel like they have made a discovery rather than being deceived by a trick. Audiences that leave the theatre return to society with a redefined sense of self, which is to say the partnership between Oz and DelGaudio is extraordinary.
Oz features quick segments of the same moment in varied audiences to demonstrate the different reactions through a number of performances. The technique is effective because it helps to eliminate doubt regarding specific acts, given the variety of people that experience and participate in the illusion. In addition, it serves to emphasize specific elements that make live theatre performances unique. For instance, the director’s emphasis on specific moments in different contexts highlights the fact that a performance is inextricably linked to the audience’s characteristics. Therefore, every show has distinctive features that are impossible to replicate.
In & of Itself features three key audience-participation arrangements that are repeated all through the film. The director’s ability to cut through the sequences allows viewers to experience the variations in the crowd’s responses to the magician’s performances. For instance, when DelGaudio addresses an audience member after correctly identifying the contents of his cards, the magician simply commends him on the good work rather than reveal the card’s contents. The individual sits down and is visibly shaken, and as the camera zooms in on his reaction, a seemingly innocuous segment transforms into an emotionally intense moment.
There are some drawbacks to presenting the magic show as a film. The collective live experience is impossible to replicate on film. Home audiences are denied the tension associated with the magician’s risk-taking antics. In addition, performance mistakes, which add to the overall authenticity of the experience, are eliminated. The director attempts to overcome these flaws by centering the film on a single performance while including snippets of a variety of crowd-participating events such as the letter-opening and log-reading sessions.
In & of Itself is an apt demonstration of how a singular vision can be presented without forfeiting integrity. Oz chose specific pieces of DelGaudio’s performances that emphasize the journey of self-discovery. The film’s creators found a way to share the performances’ impact with a wide audience, thus demonstrating the power of other people’s recognition of an individual’s true nature.
Oz, F. (Director). (2020). In & of itself [Film]. Hulu.