I Finally Watched the Bonkers Hulu Magic Special Everyone’s Talking About, And I Have Thoughts

in and of itself hulu review cat

Here’s a thing to know about me. I do not believe in magic, much like I do not believe in ghosts, astrology or sentient aliens. And yet…I cannot look away. When a new Unsolved Mysteries or UFO theory drops, I need to immediately read all about it, castigating myself for even caring (Classic Cancer!) and hedging every page turn with an unsolicited “I know this is all hooey but…”

Oh, and just so you know, I feel exactly the same way about self-help/self-actualization. (I dunno…maybe I’m more receptive to aliens.)

And so, it was with both skepticism and a healthy dose of “let’s see what all the fuss is about” that I sat down to watch In & Of Itself, magician Derek DelGaudio’s performance art cum magic show cum identity treatise currently streaming on Hulu. A live show, filmed over the course of many nights (presumably to show there were no audience plants), the footage comes from the theatrical staging, which ran in New York from 2016 to 2018, and both the IRL and Hulu versions were directed by Frank Oz, the puppeteer and filmmaker best known for voicing Miss Piggy.

The central thesis is that we all have an identity that we’re playing at—and an internal struggle to use that identity for good or evil (what DelGaudio calls the dog and the wolf). When audience members enter, they choose an identifying card off a wall—“I am a teacher,” “I am an immigrant,” “I am a failure,”—and this identity comes to mark them for the rest of the evening, and goes into the crafting of In & Of Itself’s most blow-your-mind moment. Then, what unfolds is a one-man-show that is constantly vacillating between folkloric story-telling, personal narrative and traditional/untraditional magic show: DelGaudio makes a golden brick disappear from the stage, and reappear at a random intersection in Manhattan, but he also shows how he uses sleight of hand to stack a deck and make it seem like he is pulling four kings out of thin air. This, he explains, as we fervently watch his hands to try to catch the con in action, is the crux of his own identity crisis. Is he delighting his audience, he wonders, or is he tricking them? (Dog, wolf, yada yada yada.)

There are several magic and mentalism acts in this show that are truly dazzling to behold—and detailing them here would do a disservice to anybody who has yet to watch. But DelGaudio’s greatest trick, he wants us to think, is his ability to make us look inward at our own identity. Throughout, he has audience members crying over their own sense of self, and he appears to see them at a deeper level, for who they truly are. (It’s also worth noting that some major celebs are shown tearing up and gaping on-screen, among them Tim Gunn and Bill Gates.)

And this, fellow sensitive Cancers, is where we diverge. Because it was at this point that my stone heart hardened, my bullshit antenna went up and he began to lose me. See, suddenly DelGaudio’s act began to look less like magic and more like a mega-church, or Tom Cruise jumping around the stage in Magnolia. “I’m healed! I’m healed!” I could almost hear the audience members intoning. And the whole thing just felt…icky.

To be clear, I teared up while I watching In & Of Itself. But even just five minutes later, I began to feel had. After all, is a magician on Hulu telling me I am more than my labels really that revelatory? Is the declaration that identity is multi-faceted really that bold?

Don’t get me wrong—even a grump like me enjoys feeling manipulated and enjoys not knowing how the trick is done. But next time, I’d rather that manipulation come from having him find an ace up my sleeve or guessing my mother’s birthday. If I need a therapy session, I’ll consult a therapist.

jillian quint

Editor-in-Chief, Avid Reader, Wallpaper Enthusiast

Jillian Quint is the Editor-in-Chief of PureWow, where she oversees the editorial staff and all the fabulous content you read every day. Jillian began her career as a book editor...