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BWW Blog: Ship's Log - In & Of Itself on Hulu

Derek DelGaudio's In & Of Itself on Hulu is a beautiful magical theatrical existential crisis.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of watching Derek DelGaudio's In & Of Itself on Hulu. I'm not planning on spoiling anything, but if you haven't seen it, I think you should close your computer and go watch it right now. Seriously. This is a piece of art that is best experienced completely blind. Going into it, I knew literally nothing about it, and I'm so grateful for that fact.

In & Of Itself was written, conceived, and performed by Derek DelGaudio, and directed by Frank Oz. Both of them have had substantial careers in other areas, DelGaudio as a magician, and Oz as a puppeteer. You can catch fleeting glimpses of their respective artistic careers, however in a delightfully meta twist, they both defy the labels I, and others, may assign them, and show

themselves to be so much more. Because of this, In & Of Itself is difficult to classify. Is it a film? Is it a stage show? Is it a play? A magic show? A comedy? An existential crisis? It's hard to say. In & Of Itself is many things, all of which are difficult to describe. One of the few concrete things I can say is that it is about labels. Through sharp writing, a deceptively simple set, and a load of

illusions, In & Of Itself creates a very intimate portrait of the many trials and tribulations that come with defining yourself. It's difficult to be the person you want to be. It's even more difficult to get others to perceive you that way.

DelGaudio's writing is stellar. There are the literary pillars of theme and motif that can definitely be analyzed, that's for sure. The show is saying a lot of things, some of which I mentioned in the previous paragraph, and some of which still elude me after multiple viewings. However, DelGaudio and Oz have accomplished something rather phenomenal. They have created a smart and heady piece of art, one that makes you think about many different things. But they have done so in a way that completely bypasses your critical faculties, and causes you to feel in a very raw and human way. I'm a theatre artist, and an enthusiastic academic, so whenever I watch anything, especially a work of theatre, I try to dissect it. I try to look at each individual moving part, and try to figure out what makes it work so well. In & Of Itself is the first time in a long time that I've completely shut myself off and enjoyed something for what it is without trying to peel back the layers. Even on repeat viewings, I've simply found myself basking in DelGaudio and Oz's masterful work.

That's another thing I'd like to talk about. Repeat viewings. For lack of a better term, I think In & Of Itself is revolutionary. There have been proshoots before, but I'm hesitant to call In & Of Itself a proshoot, because it's so much more than that. DelGaudio's entire stage show is preserved through this film, yes, but it also has some extra cinematic qualities that blur the line between film and proshoot. Now normally, I abhor when producers try to turn proshoots into movies, however, In & Of Itself is different. For one, the first thing we see is a black screen telling us to turn off our cellphones. I personally loved this because it made me feel like I was in a theatre, and that I was a vital part of the theatrical experience, even in the comfort of my own home. There was even some film-exclusive voiceover that opened things up, which helped to set the tone, and was helpful to introduce us to Derek.

As a stage show, In & Of Itself contains a lot of monologues. I can appreciate that being a bit tricky to capture on film, and it was handled in a very interesting way. Many of the lengthier story based monologues were accompanied by what seemed to be hand-drawn storyboard art, which

was delightfully different, and it helps the viewer focus on DelGaudio's words. There's also a bit of voice-acting and animation through a few longer sequences. Not only was the animation incredibly well done, but they also kept a decent amount of DelGaudio's live dialogue. This gives it a very unique cinematic feel, and also helps to further muddle how exactly to classify this piece of art. That lack of clarity is fundamental to the material of the show.

I wanted to take a bit of time to talk about my favorite pair of cinematic changes. In & Of Itself utilizes a heavy amount of audience participation. Terrifying, I know. However, since many of the interactions are so personal, instead of just choosing whoever was there on the night of filming, the editors showed us multiple takes of different audience members for each section, rapidly edited together for a brisk and holistic experience. It made us feel like anyone who has ever come into contact with the piece is a character now. One other choice the editors made was including a kind of instant replay. For many key moments, we see them from different angles, back-to-back-to-back. Now, if they had done something like this in Hamilton or She Loves Me, I probably would have blown a gasket. However all of these changes turn In & Of Itself into something that's much more than a film, and much more than a theatrical experience. And for a piece that is rooted in the idea of labels, and how we fit into and break out of them, I think that's a very fitting choice.

If you've read this far, I hope I've convinced you to go and watch it. In & Of Itself is one of the most effective pieces of art I've seen in my life. From the moment it ended, I knew I needed to see it again. I wanted to scream about it from the rooftops. So please, go experience it for yourself. Then tell a friend. And have them tell a friend. It's joyous, life affirming, and mandatory viewing for anyone and everyone.

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