Who is Derek DelGaudio: A review of In & Of Itself
Sara-Kate Astrove & Lux Sommers
Derek DelGaudio contains multitudes; he is a magician, a son, an actor, a performance artist and more, as shown in his arresting one man show titled In & Of Itself. In this 75-minute meditation on identity, directed by Frank Oz and produced by Neil Patrick Harris, we learn that not only does DelGaudio contain such Whitmanesque dimensions—so do we.
Filing into Union Square’s Daryl Roth Theater, we were confronted by a wall of paper cards, printed with the words “I am,” each followed by a unique expression of singularity, some abstract: i.e. a fighter, some empirical: a gynecologist, and others downright fantastical: a ninja. Prompted to select a card from the wall, we, your correspondents, chose a nun (Sara-Kate) and (Lux) a freak.
Lights went down, and a spotlit DelGaudio, dressed in a three-piece magician suit, walked onto the stage. Opening the show, he regaled the audience with a story of the Roulettista—a Spanish sailor who became a legend, by defying the odds at Russian Roulette. Not only was the tale well spun, its conclusion lead to an unexpected statement about DelGaudio’s own identity, which took on surprising significance by the show’s finale.
Combining card tricks, masterful storytelling, and insightful musings on personhood, DelGaudio has created a show that is every bit as unique as it claims to be. The performance has all the makings of a classic magic show, as when he makes a brick disappear or pops a ship into a glass bottle. But there’s more. In one vignette, DelGaudio speaks about the bullying he encountered as a boy, when kids at school learned his mother was gay. In the end, what captivated us most wasn’t DelGaudio’s sleight of hand, but the way that these tricks led to earnest moments of personal revelation.
At times, the magic seemed to speak to us audience members individually, revealing things within ourselves that DelGaudio seemed miraculously to intuit and validate. To reveal too many details about such moments would ruin the critical component of surprise that lent the night a sort of divine luster. All we can say is that DelGaudio’s skillful illusions awed us to the point of wondering whether something greater might be at work.
By the end, we felt connected by a powerful sense of union, what it is to be one among many. Yet we are each a special snowflake, we were told, though not in those words. For the grand finale, a magic trick delivered this message in a way that wasn’t maudlin or corny—not in the least. Despite the artifice inherent in any trick, DelGaudio’s magic gave way to moments of catharsis and honesty. The message of personal uniqueness might be one we’ve heard before, but the way it was presented was like nothing we’d ever seen; indeed, it was enough to surprise even us highly cynical New Yorkers. Maybe that’s the real magic: We entered the theater as basically assholes (as in: when’s this over? where are we eating later? and: who’s the douche in to the suit?) And then—poof—just like that, we were enchanted; we were transformed; we were.
Sara-Kate Astrove received her MFA from The New School’s Creative Writing Program and is working on a memoir. Her work, published under “anonymous” and “S.K.” has appeared in Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmo, Harper’s Bazaar, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, and Yahoo.
Lux Sommers is a New York based writer and musician. She enjoys celestial bodies and having pretend relationships with dead authors. Her poetry and essays have appeared in The Rumpus, the Brooklyn Rail, The Daily News, Honeysuckle Magazine and more.