Frank Oz at the Geffen

by Bonnie Foster

"At once subtle, personal and spectacular"
Part magic show, part puppet show, part ethereal interactive brain-child of veteran director Frank Oz (Little Shop of Horrors, The Dark Crystal), In & Of Itself is, among other things, very aptly named. It is a show that occupies its own unique place in the world of theatrical experience. Creator and master magician Derek DelGaudio holds the audience of the Geffen Playhouse in rapt attention as he leads them through what feels to be a very intimate and personal interchange, like listening to the glimmering tales of a stranger in a cozy bar far, far away and long, long ago.

As he climbs ladders along the avant-garde puppetry backdrop and delivers magic tricks with tasteful technological enhancements, the audience is guided along the pathways of DelGaudio’s mind, gradually entranced as if falling under a spell.  And the grand finale comes as a revelation; at once subtle, personal and spectacular, it is a poignant culmination of all of the bits and pieces expertly sprinkled by DelGaudio along the way.  In the words of DelGaudio himself: “I could describe the Vatican, but you’ve got to see it.”

It is not the ingenious stage design or the subtle puppetry throughout the piece that makes this show worthy of your precious 21st century time.  Nor is it the bewildering magic tricks.  Rather, it is the feeling that lingers after Derek bids you adieu and you stumble back out to the sidewalk pondering what you have just seen. There is a lightness.  A shift.  A veil that has been lifted on your perception of the world and your own identity.  It feels as if Derek has been working his magic behind the scenes, legerdemain in each audience member’s mind, so that by the end of his “trick” you have begun to crack the code of your very existence.

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is true magic.