For many people, the thing that makes In & Of Itself stand out from most other magic shows is its emotional resonance. The show makes people feel something.
I felt something too after watching it. I felt sorry for Helder Guimaraes.
He was in Nothing to Hide with Derek DelGaudio and that show was almost universally praised. I think a lot of us assumed they would go on and be this magic duo for years to come. Instead, that was essentially a one-show partnership and they've gone their separate ways.
So then they both come out with competing one-man shows. And if I was in that situation, I'd probably want to blow people away and show myself as the creative force behind the partnership. So it's got to be tough when the other guy's show gets praised as one of the best magic shows of all time and the only real buzz your show generates is from the time you were accused of yelling at an autistic girl. That's got to be pretty disheartening.
Derek's show truly was one of the best magic shows I've ever seen. It didn't necessarily strike me as "revolutionary," it just felt like a well-written, well-structured, thoughtful, cohesive piece of theater. It's actually kind of sad for magic that those qualities are so rare that a show that possesses them is so notable. And I actually think it's kind of harmful to magic to look at his show as being some outlier that redefines magic stage shows. I agree that it's a genuine artistic achievement, but ultimately his accomplishment was creating something original that captured people's imaginations. And that's great and all, but—to quote Chris Rock's response to his black friends proudly saying things like, "I take care of my kids,"— that's what you're supposed to do, you dumb motherfucker!
Much of the response from magicians to this show felt like, "What a bold, brave move it was to not do an egg-bag routine."
I guess it's a matter of what your expectations for a magic show are. If you believed the standard magic show, of old tricks done with old lines and no esthetic sensibility was fine, then of course Derek's show seems radical. But my background in entertainment is in fields other than magic. And that type of mediocrity would never be accepted in those fields. So when I saw Derek's show I just felt like it was a great example of the type of show we should see in magic regularly (original presentations, original ideas, original POVs).
I'm not going to get into too much specific detail about the show because, either you've seen it, in which case you don't need me recap it. Or you haven't seen it, in which it would be a disservice of me to recap it for you. If you get the opportunity to see it, go do so.
There were some things in the show that didn't connect with me. There's a long section on false dealing and shuffling that is technically masterful, but not overly interesting to me. But I understand why he put it in the show. If you wasted half your life learning that shit you wouldn't be so quick to ditch it either. You'd think, "Oh, it's very important I put my false dealing demonstration in this show." It's a little lie you'd tell yourself to keep you from putting a gun in your mouth due to spending so much time on something that is ultimately only particularly impressive tubby dullards at the Cape Cod Conclave.
Also—and here's where I come out as a true intellectual lightweight—I didn't necessarily love the subtext of the show. "It's not so much a magic show," people would say, "It's a show about identity." "Oh wow," I'd say, nodding sagely, "yes, yes... truly intriguing." And as I was watching the show, I found all of it very interesting but I didn't necessarily get it. I was reminded of that Moliere quote, "That must be wonderful: I don't understand it at all!"
Now, to be fair, I don't understand most stuff that's "deep." My brain is part robot and part puppy. So it's entirely possible that I didn't connect with that part of Derek's show because I'm kind of one dimensional. The last artistic representation of people that I identified with were the guys in this SNL skit having a cotton candy dance party.
On the other hand there was so much that I loved about the show too. Almost every trick had a strong visual image associated with it, so everything is very memorable. Contrast this with Helder's show which, while it had a lot of competently performed card magic that fooled me, there was nothing sticky about it. Everything fell away. With Derek's show I remember most of what happened throughout the show, and my memories start with a visual image that unfolds itself to remind me of the full effect.
I really liked the way the show extended beyond this moment and this place. I write about similar things on this site in regards to amateur performances but I'd never really seen it done in a proper stage show. One effect gets extended outside of the theater, past the end of the show. Another effect overlaps from one show to the next so, in a way, all the shows are connected like some theatrical human centipede, mouth to butthole.
And I especially loved the final moment of the show. I'm a sucker for a twist ending. And In & Of Itself, has a final 2-second effect that occurs at the very end of the show that came as a complete surprise to me and will forever be one of my strongest memories from any theater show. And it made something click in my head about our objectives when we perform magic (more on that to come in a future post).
As of this writing, In & Of Itself has been extended through September 3rd. That's plenty of time for you to plan a trip to NYC and see it. Make it happen.