The Mercer Players performed Luigi Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of An Author” forthe spring 2011 play. The show ran February 17 through the 27 at the Backdoor Theater.
Pirandello may have been the first playwright to capture the true essence of a dysfunctionalfamily in his work but the Players were able to hold their own in their rendition of the soapopera-esque play.
From the angsty Son who was sent away to the country by his father, to the Stepdaughter whoworks as a prostitute and may or may not have slept with her Stepfather, to the youngest childwho drowns while playing in the fountain. Throw in a suicide and the play is ripe with tragedy.
However the play was much more than the sad tale of a dysfunctional family. It was a satiricaltragicomedy that revolved around the characters of an author’s unfinished play.
Because the play had not been finished the characters have no choice but to act out the writtenparts of the play over and over again.
They are trapped in the moments of the play, unchanging, and have no reality outside their own narrative.
They roam around to try and find an author who will finish writing their play so the characterscan finally act out an ending.
It is this roaming that leads them into a modern day rehearsal for a play by the New York Acting Company.
While the play, much like Inception, is difficult to understand the first time around, the MercerPlayers did a great job in keeping up with Pirandello’s eccentric play.
“It is a difficult play to understand but that is because it is one of the first theater of the absurdpieces and it was written in 1921 in Italian and had to be translated,” said Scott Mann, the play’s director. While it was hard to figure out at times the play was anything but boring. I was surprised when the acting began before the doors of the Backdoor Theater were closed.The actors walked around through an unfinished set and gave off the impression that they weregoing about with their daily lives.
Everyone on stage froze as the House Manager Isaac Callahan took center stage to explain thatthe set was for a modern day play that was in rehearsal by the actors of the New York ActingCompany who were frozen in place around him. As the lights dimmed and Isaac left the stage, life began again as normal for the actors until sixstrange people arrived interrupting the rehearsal.
The people explained they were characters in search for an author to finish their drama, and sothe true conflict began.
The Stepdaughter, played by Tory Johnson and the Father, played by Kyle Shook, had a majorityof the characters lines and told a tragic tale of a family broken and in distress.
They pleaded for the director to finish their play while the other actors stared in disgust as theybecame bored with the charade.
Johnson commanded the stage, speaking with anger and contempt for her Stepfather as she triedto tell her tragic story.
Shook played a stoic man who seemed like he had enough patience for a madhouse while theSon, played by Chad Sliger, sat in a corner amusingly leaning against a wall with a look of halfboredom half disgust.
Marcella Murray acted a wounded helpless mother perfectly. Crying her lines with as muchstrength as she could muster before collapsing back into her chair, truly telling the audience her pain. Jim Sisson played the part of the director in such a way that the audience could not help butbecome as excited as he was about becoming the new author of the character’s drama. While the play progressed the actors had few lines but they made the audience completely awarethat they were not happy with quip one liners and outrageous faces.
As the play wound down to the final scenes it was revealed that the youngest daughter, played byMeredith Fuchs, would drown in a fountain and her brother would commit suicide after he wasunable to save her. The tragic ending played itself out to the dismay of the Director and the actors who both decidedthat the Characters belong in an asylum and not on the stage.
The Director’s final line of “I’ve wasted a whole day on these people,” fell as the lights fadedand the Characters were seen raising their arms in unison as the stage went dark. Applause resounded throughout the small space as the actors all came out together on stage. While the play was difficult to comprehend, it surely was not dull and truly made your heartbleed for the characters. Bravo Mercer Players for a job well done.