Characters from a play come to life to befuddle a director/theater manager in Luigi Pirandello’s play, “Six Characters in Search of an Author.”
A troupe of young actors are rehearsing a play when a strange family steps out of the mind of a playwright and on to their stage. All hell breaks loose. The Father (Mark Yochum) insists their story be told; much to the chagrin of the Manager (Max Begler).
The actors (Julie Loesch, Heather Due, Dominic Deluca and others) hang out and listen to their metaphysical and meta-theatrical tale.
The Step-Daughter (Liz Venesky) doesn’t like how the actress is playing her. The Mother (Nupur Charyalu) doesn’t want the tale to be told. The Boy (Griffin Sendek) skulks in the background. His sister, the Child (Hannah Schmidt) quietly awaits her fate. The Son (Liviu Reynolds) hangs back and tries to distance himself from the group – – but he cannot.
The Manager goes over a bunch of theatrical rules. He insists that all of the action take place in one common area, like the garden, even though the characters are insisting the action took place all over the house. He teaches them about the mechanics of telling a story on stage.
Side note: There’s a gun in the first act, and Pirandello adheres to Anton Chekov’s theatrical rule…i.e. expect a bang!
Pirandello’s play feels a lot like Playwriting 101 (except it’s from the character’s point of view).
A lot of thoughts and actions are described, but very little action takes place until the very end of the play and then…it literally explodes into pieces.
Yochum manages to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. He handles a lion’s share of the work here. His prowess as an actor elevates the weakly written character. He also gets the biggest laughs with a raised eyebrow or a sly smile. At one point, the Manager orders him about and he fulfills his duties robotically, with his mouth agape. It is hilarious.
Begler does a terrific job of being exasperated by the newcomers who present themselves on his stage.
Venesky also does a fine job. She is a very charismatic young woman. Her personal charms overcome the character’s more grating personality.
A lot of characters in “Six Characters” stand around and don’t get much to do. It would be unfair to judge their ability on their brief snippets of dialogue.
In the “Bewitched” season two episode, “And Then I Wrote,” Samantha Stephens writes a play for her community theater’s American Civil War centennial, and, for inspiration, brings the characters in the play to life with a twitch of her nose. In the thirty minute television episode, the characters refuse to go back into the script until they get the ending they desire. It’s quick, funny and magical. Everything this play is not.
“Six Characters in Search of an Author” is, of course, a lot deeper than a 60s sitcom. It is, however, definitely not as good as a Beckett or Ionesco.
“Six Characters in Search of an Author” feels too long, even at ninety minutes. It is, however, a treatise on theater, stagecraft, the willing suspension disbelief, and the rules of making an absurdist/existential drama.
“Six Characters in Search of an Author” runs until February 24 at the Genesius Theater on the Duquesne University campus in Pittsburgh. For more information, click here.