How do you talk about a show based on illusion without spoiling the surprises?

“In & Of Itself,” a new show by illusionist Derek DelGaudio at Geffen Playhouse’s Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater is like no other show you’ve ever seen. It’s a personal memoir, a metaphor about people and perception, a show with – if you can call them this – “magic” tricks that will make you gasp with amazement, wondering how he did it.

DelGaudio had a record-breaking run at The Geffen with his prior show “Nothing to Hide” before it moved on to packed houses in New York. With this new production, he’s taken a unique direction.

To help him shape the show, DelGaudio recruited director Frank Oz, director of “Little Shop of Horrors” and the Steve Martin con-man film, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” who is perhaps best known as the Muppet Studio puppeteer who created Miss Piggy, Cookie Monster and Yoda. And the musicmaker’s no slouch either: if you remember the band DEVO; you’ll recognize the name Mark Mothersbaugh, who’s composed scores for such films as “Rushmore,” “PeeWee’s Playhouse” and “The Lego Movie.”

The show begins even before it begins, as audience members face a lobby wall filled with labeled cards that say, “I Am” followed by such descriptions as “experimenter,” “altruist,” “lawyer,” “filmmaker,” from which every member of the audience selects one. Those cards are handed to the stage attendants as the audience members take their seats. How they are used later provides the finale to the show… with a visually stunning final “trick”- stagecraft at its finest and revealing in a completely different sense.

An autobiographical piece intermingled with what feels like an improvised story telling style, DelGaudio stands before us and says that things are not always what they seem. He tells us that he never really understood why his father left the family, until one night when he discovers his mother kissing another woman in the living room.

The reaction of their friends and neighbors to this discovery included a brick thrown through their living room window. A gold-painted brick sits inside one of six boxes within the wall behind him, and he pulls it out of the shattered glass that it appears to be stuck in. What happens when that brick disappears is one of the many illusions that lead audiences to go beyond the theatre’s walls to see if it ended up where he says it is.

He tells the story of the “roulettista,” a mechanized puppet inside one of the boxes in the wall, holding a gun that he points at his head and lowers, repeating the action as the story is told. The roulettista cheated death at Russian Roulette so often that he made a fortune on the bets made against his chances for survival. This, however, has a twist of an ending, revealing something about DelGaudio himself.

Each night’s show will differ somewhat, because DelGaudio asks one audience member to leave the theatre before the show ends to review what they have seen so far, writing in a large journal from which he will read the next night when that person returns. He also asks them to envision an ending for the show. No one will ever come up with the one he’s created.

There are card tricks, a mind-bending letter trick and a very creative finale, which is truly something to behold, all in little more than an hour’s time.

“In & Of Itself” at the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theatre (Geffen Playhouse) was extended before it opened. It’s up through June 26th. Find out more at or call (310) 208-5454.

Short notes

The fourth annual CATE (Cinema at the Edge) Independent Film Festival is back at Edgemar Center for the Arts, May 19 through May 22. Films of all genres with a distinct vision, a unique voice or a challenge to the “expected,” there will be 50 features, documentaries and short films, along with opening and closing night parties, discussion panels and an award ceremony. Details here:

The Getty Center offers its “Saturdays Off the 405” music series, and their “Friday Flights” inter-disciplinary series of happenings spanning contemporary classical music, artist-made interventions, electronic music, sound-based installations, poetry, dance, film, and more. May 21 is the first “Saturdays,” with jennylee, June 18 features Moses Sumney, with the next four dates TBA. All details will be posted at

And a spectacle of a very different kind, the largest shadow puppet play ever to be performed, “Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic” based on the 10th century Persian epic Shahnameh (The Book of Kings), will take place May 27-29 at The Ralph Freud (that’s Frood, not Froyd!) Theatre at UCLA.

Suitable for all ages, Feathers of Fire tells the action-packed tale of Zaul and Rudabeh, two star-crossed lovers of old Persia. Zaul is raised by a mythical bird in the wild. His deep love for Rudabeh enables them both to triumph over inconceivable odds, and then give birth to a beloved son, Rostam – the most important mythological hero of Shahnameh.

More than 160 shadow puppets and performers are featured in elaborate, handmade masks and costumes. Over 100 digitally animated backgrounds lend an authentic texture to the performance – all seamlessly choreographed and projected on a 15′ x 30′ screen-creating the feeling of live animation.

Tickets are available at the UCLA box office (310) 825-2101.

Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also written features and reviews for various print and online publications.

Photo: Derek DelGaudio – Jeff Lorch Photography