In & Of Itself: A Review
Some believe that “the oldest profession” is an idiom that conjures up mental images of brothels and clandestine encounters. Others believe that the expression goes back further in time. It harkens back to the time when we as hominids gathered around the fire and told stories of the hunt. It takes us back to the time when we painted our first art on cave walls so that we could convey our stories. Some would say that it was in that time that real theatre was first born. There's vivid art on display on the walls at the Daryl Roth theatre, and magical storytelling occurring on its stage, and both are being beautifully manipulated by a writer, performance artist, and master magician all in the form of Derek Delgaudio.
When you enter his performance space you encounter your first wall. It's a wall filled with row, after row, after row of small white cards that all have the words I Am emblazoned at the top. Below that they each have a different descriptive word or phrase. Doctor. Mom. Cougar. Imagineer. Best friend. A big deal. The one that got away. The choices seem almost endless. The magician wants you to pick a card. Do so. There's revelation in your choice. It's about who you think you are. It's about who you're meant to be for the next seventy-five intermission less moments.
You then enter the theatre itself, going deeper into the magician’s chamber of secrets. As you take your seat you encounter the other wall. On stage is an imposing solid wall of wood boards with six window boxes of various sizes set into it. Each of these smaller individual chambers contains an item, a thing, a device that will each serve to tell a story that contributes to the whole. Revealing what they are wouldn't be fair. That would be giving away some of the magic. In fact, telling you much more wouldn't be fair to both you or to the magician. Telling you wouldn't give away how the illusions are achieved but it would reveal the secrets of the story and story is everything here.
What can be said is that through the course of the evening magician Delgaudio will load each of those six chambers with a story and an illusion. Every time he does so, he pulls a trigger and fires a shot right through himself and the audience. That's not hyperbole. It's the truth. It's in the telling of the tale. Delgaudio, producers Neil Patrick Harris and Glenn Kaino, and director Frank Oz have masterfully designed, crafted, and presented a supremely beautiful mix of life lessons learned, and illusionist skills mastered, all of which merge into a series of perfect entertainment moments.
Though he stands alone on-stage this magician still has his assistants. An artistic collective known as A. Bandit designed a set and performance space that is deceptively simple and cunning all on its own. On stage, there is only a wall, a ladder, a table, and a chair but this production design begins the moment you walk in the front door. The same can be said of lighting designer Adam Blumenthal’s work. The wall of white cards is lit in a bright white wash that gives them a surreal and inviting glow that draws you towards them. His illuminations during the show itself helps to illustrate each magical move Delgaudio makes. Mark Mothersbaugh, founding member and front man of the indie-pop band Devo, sets the mood with a mesmerizing original score and sound designer Kevin Heard accentuates the tone of the production and helps to make inanimate objects spring to life. Individually they all shine but collectively they form a foundation that creates an environment in which Delgaudio can further manipulate the senses.
There are the great magicians that everyone remembers because they have name recognition. Thurston. Blackstone. Houdini. Henning. Copperfield. For those in the know, Derek Delgaudio could be closely compared to a mix of the elegant stage style of Channing Pollack, the profound close-up skill sets of Rene Lavand, and the storytelling genius of the recently lost Eugene Burger. Comparisons are made here for reference but Delgaudio is a master magician all to himself. His presentation and style is for a new generation and stands entirely on its own. His relationship with the audience is everything and he achieves that by being funny and sad, understanding and coy, charming and mischievous, and at times painfully honest. Delgaudio, the magician, becomes whatever he needs to be to help us along on this most personal journey.
By the time Derek Delgaudio is done with the telling, concluding with a mind boggling final ten minutes you will never ever forget, you will be transfixed and transformed. At that conclusion, when he asks you to stand up and believe in who you are, who you chose to be represented by that white card you picked out when you first walked into his domain, do so. Stand up. Believe in yourself and do it. He wants you to. You won't regret it and you'll become a part of this master’s final illusion. You’ll become a part of the touching, heartfelt, glorious, empowering magical story he tells so well.
Daryl Roth Theatre 101 East 15th Street
New York, NY 1003 $30 - $148 www.darylroththeatre.com 212-375-1110 April 5 – Dec 30, 2017
From an original post on TheaterScene/The Fire Island Sun.