Magic and monologues turn out to be a potent streaming combination, conjuring a taste of the theatrical experience that many sorely miss. The latest example, “In & Of Itself,” transforms Derek DelGaudio’s long-running stage show into an absorbing Hulu special, one that actually builds on the in-person experience by mashing together numerous shows as opposed to filming just one.
The special was taped in New York, where DelGaudio’s presentation ran off-Broadway for more than 500 performances. But the show actually made its debut at Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse, which was notably the scene of another magic act, Helder Guimarães’ “The Present” and now “The Future,” offering a remarkable interactive virtual experience to the stay-at-home theater crowd.
Both performers combine sleight of hand with deeply personal narratives, serving as a kind of one-person show punctuated by card tricks. DelGaudio is described as a “storyteller and conceptual magician,” which has the mind-expanding mix about right.
Yet in bringing “In & Of Itself” to the screen, director Frank Oz (yes, the former Muppet master and filmmaker, who directed the theatrical version as well) has heightened the impact of DelGaudio’s material by rapidly inter-cutting exchanges with audience members across a number of shows.
In the most memorably unique and showstopping bit, DelGaudio asked attendees to take a card off the wall with a specific identity, saying “I am” and listing a wide variety of choices, from occupations to familial relationships to vague designations like “oracle” or “rebel.”
Near the end, he then went through the audience one by one, somehow rattling off what title each of them had chosen.
Instead of a single demonstration of that, Oz illustrates the routine by presenting a stunning medley, including several famous people (Bill Gates among them) who attended the show. It’s almost the equivalent of seeing an athlete not merely make one great play but a highlight reel with dozens of them.
Oz applies the same approach to an emotional sequence in which DelGaudio brings a guest on stage, giving them something to read that surprises and moves them. Those kind of interactions provide the biggest “wow” moments, although the card tricks certainly brand him as someone with whom you’d be ill-advised to play poker.
Granted, watching something like “In & Of Itself” in your living room isn’t quite the same experience as seeing the show in an intimate theatrical setting. But for now, it’s the next-best thing, and as structured, a very good one at that.
“In & Of Itself” premieres Jan. 22 on Hulu.