‘In & Of Itself’ turns identity into an illusion


Courtesy / Hulu

Simon Wagner, Columnist

Told through an empathetic lens, Derek DelGaudio’s play about identity is one that packs an emotional punch and makes you question who you really are.

Set on a New York stage and performed over 500 times, DelGaudio’s passion project can only be described as a singular experience. A professional magician in his own right, DelGaudio has gone throughout life having others label who he is. So, with his mastery of magic, and his history of labeled identity, DelGaudio set out to create an experience where the audience will understand that not just one thing defines us. 

The stage setup is simple. There are six windows behind DelGaudio, and each one tells a story of his past. These windows guide DelGaudio’s narrative, and provide a connection between him and his audience. 

Throughout this narrative, there is a series of illusions and magic tricks that correlate with the story being told. But because of DelGaudio’s unbelievable delivery and total command of storytelling, the magic that is performed almost becomes a sideshow. You soon realize that the true magic comes from the stories themselves.

One of the windows that contributes the most to DelGaudio’s story is one that contains a gold brick being thrown through glass. This window tells the story of a mother. A mother who at 17 years old gave birth to a son. The father, who was much older, decided to pack his bags and leave.

So, when this boy was born, all he knew about relationships came from the one he had with his mother. This mother had one big secret though: she was gay. The son found this out when he walked in on her making out with another woman. After talking to his mother, the boy fell asleep that night crying. He cried because he felt that for the first time in his life, him and his mother could finally live.

But why the gold brick in the glass window? This signifies the time a neighbor threw a brick through their kitchen window, and left a Bible on their doorstep. This began the start of the boy being labeled as homophobic slurs because of who his mother was. It’s when the boy realized that a person doesn’t have to know you in order to label you. And it’s the beginning of the boy questioning his own identity. 

I find it difficult reviewing this piece of art because the whole point of DelGaudio’s play is that the audience will have to decide for themselves what they just experienced. 

Although the story is structured by these narrative windows, the structure itself relies on the interpretation of the audience. It gets to a point where the best thing to do is to just let the experience take over you. 

We understand that the underlying theme of the play is about who we are, but even that can be difficult because a lot of us may not know. So here is my conclusion to the play.

Identity is an illusion. DelGaudio masterfully conveys this by his blending of magic and storytelling. He lets people know that the simple question of “Who am I?” is not simple at all. We may choose one identity, but deep down, we know that just one thing does not define us. There’s something transcendent about “In & Of Itself,” and it isn’t just the magic. 

“In & Of Itself” is available now on Hulu.