Tom Deluca Brings Out Inner Britney in Obies
by Kate Antognini

Would you jiggle your parts like Britney Spears, gracefully pirouette and twirl across a stage to Tchaikovsky or listen to Rob Zombie from your shoe in front of hundreds of Obies, unless brainwashed into doing so? Maybe, if you wanted to impress fellow students with your outrageous acting skills.
Although Tom Deluca’s hypnosis routine on Monday night at the Cat was absolutely hilarious, at times it was almost too funny to seem believable. And many volunteers were smirking and giggling when Deluca had his back turned. Perhaps, credit for the show’s success should be given to Oberlin’s talented theater department instead of Deluca himself.
“I came [to the show] without having much faith in hypnosis,” first-year Jyoti Bhatt said, who left the show unconvinced but with a smile on her face. “I think it [was] a bunch of people who tried to do an act just like a comedy routine…a lot of them are attention sluts.”
Deluca, a widely popular hypnotist and entertainer recently featured on an episode of NBC’s “Dateline,” has been college-hopping with his act for several years and is accustomed to facing some ridicule.
“I like the fact that [critics] are just out about it because it makes a difference when they see that it is real,” Deluca, who has a Masters degree in psychology, said before performing.
His show proved to be a wild and entertaining mixture of wonder and comedy free of stereotypical chicken clucking or dog barking, but full of exhibits of peer humiliation that the audience hungrily lapped up.
Wearing a slick, talk show host outfit, Deluca loosened up the crowd with a slightly amusing comedy bit about Ms. Cleo, the recently defamed television psychic. Then, he selected a handful of eager students as his guinea pigs. Turning his back to the audience, he breathlessly repeated a familiar refrain to them: “Relax…go deeper, deeper into your imagination, way, way down,” sounding like the ill-fated job-hypnotist from the work-sucks movie Office Space.

Although his powers of hypnosis may be doubted, Deluca certainly succeeded in relaxing his volunteers. Maybe some were just sleep-deprived from pulling all-nighters on Sunday studying for midterms, but whatever the reason, almost immediately jaws dropped limply, tongues flopped out and the dazed students took on the expression of content, dozing dogs. Some fell into such a deep sleep that they slipped from their chairs and had to be ushered off the stage.
The funniest part of the show was an identity costume party of sorts in which Deluca had volunteers assume hilarious roles at certain cues. One student became a natural Britney Spears, shamelessly bouncing about the stage to “Oops…I Did it Again” as the audience cheered him on. Another turned into a “fruit-rights” activist, sensitive to the feelings of bananas and apples. Apparently horrified at the sight of Deluca biting into a green granny apple, the student rescued the injured fruit and cradled it in his arms. “Fruits are like human beings, man,” he said gravely. Yet another student was made to believe that he was missing his posterior, and, when he realized what was lacking, immediately lunged for a pair of cheeks that were not his own.
Inevitably, the stars and divas of the show emerged and painted the stage with their personalities. One standout was junior theater and philosophy major Channing Joseph, who alternately praised and ridiculed Deluca at the command of the hypnotist’s snapping fingers. “I have to stop the show,” Joseph announced grabbing the mic. “It’s all fake…we rehearsed this for two months on the roof of Wilder.” Deluca snapped his fingers again and Joseph embraced the man. “You’re just so talented…I worship you,” he exclaimed.
Joseph said that he wasn’t simply acting. “You just become totally tuned into what [the hypnotist] is saying to the point where nothing else is in your mind. So you just do whatever you’ve been told to.” He added that in a normal state he might not have gone as far as he did on stage. “I feel really embarrassed right now,” he said.
Although there was some disagreement among students about the show’s validity, almost everyone found it a highly entertaining experience. “There was some really funny stuff that went down, and I’m not going to look at these people the same,” sophomore Krista Jahn said.
Before exiting the stage, Deluca put his volunteers under a trance one last time, giving them a treat that members of the audience surely craved: “In the coming weeks or months you’ll be able to study better, longer and remember what you read three times as well,” he promised them.

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