Derek DalGaudio in In & Of Itself, directed by Frank Oz, at the Geffen Playhouse.
Derek DalGaudio in In & Of Itself, directed by Frank Oz, at the Geffen Playhouse.
(© Jeff Lorch Photography)

There are two types of audience members at a magic show: those who spend the performance trying to figure out how the illusionist managed the tricks and those who ignore logic and allow themselves to be dazzled. At Derek DelGaudio's In & Of Itself, having its world premiere at the Geffen Playhouse, one has little chance of deciphering how he defies the laws of nature. Your eyes betray you at every turn, showing you events that seemingly could not have possibly taken place — and yet they have.

DelGaudio does not perform parlor tricks, he tells stories and connects directly with the audience using the illusions as emphasis to heighten their impact. The current show revolves around a story he had been told in Spain about a sailor entering a Russian roulette competition and surviving over and over only for fate to destroy his life years later. Six compartments on a wall represent the six chambers of the gun, a constant reminder of death around the corner.

DelGaudio shocks the audience by revealing personal details about themselves that he could not possibly have known. Though many illusion shows do utilize plants (a magician's co-conspirators hidden among the audience), it is doubtful that he used ruses to fake out the audience, making the "how" all the more mesmerizing.

DelGaudio catches the audience off-guard by having them focus on odd details and involves them in ways that are atypical to an average evening at the theater. The illusions themselves are grounded in parlor tricks seen often at the Magic Castle or other magic venues, such as card manipulations, but because they all tie into the motif of the sailor with the gun, they resonate more deeply.

Hollywood director Frank Oz creates an eerie atmosphere particularly with Mark Mothersbaugh's moody original music and Adam Blumenthal's stark lighting.

Derek DelGaudio is a masterful storyteller. He fills minds with anecdotes and perplexing tales then blows those minds with simple but astounding feats. No matter how much one wants to know how everything has been achieved, one cannot help but enjoy the thrill of the mystery. And that's the real magic.