There’s an anecdote about actor Edmund Gwenn on his deathbed. You can Google what his final words actually were but the popular simplification of the tale goes that his visiting friend said, “This must be very difficult for you,” and Gwenn replied, “No. Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”
Magic of an entirely different sort—the kind performed by an actual magician—is a component of In and Of Itself, written and performed by Derek DelGaudio at the Daryl Roth Theatre off Union Square. But the magic is only a component, and occupies less of the show than you might expect. The magic supports a darkly funny, measured rumination on the meaning of existence.
Mr. DelGuadio is a youngish fellow (30ish) who seems almost too baby faced and charming to be so broody, but he himself personifies the show’s fascinating concepts of identity, expectation and contradiction. Indeed, the magic itself is arguably the least provocative thing about the show, manifesting in sleight-of-hand card manipulation, scenic illusion and good old fashioned mentalism. If you have no grounding in magic at all, you’ll find the magicianship at least fairly impressive, if not mind-boggling. If you have some, you’ll recognize by the end that he hasn’t rewritten the (secret) book technically, but follows in the great tradition of appearing to, adding his own unique details to presentation, and linking presentation to story. But unusually—even for a magic show that is themed—he makes that linkage about as close to touching (in an emotional sense) as a magic show has ever been. And that’s where the real magic is to be found.