These are the two best things about Six Characters now at Lamama Theatre: first, it got me to rediscover Pirandello’s play with its insightful, clarifying distinctions: What is a character? What is an actor? Where is the playwright in all of this? And second, its creative use of art objects on the stage. If I had not seen them, I certainly could never have imagined puppets 12-feet tall operated by full human bodies.
The play begins with what I would call a preamble, in which three giant Pinocchio puppets engage in seeming sibling rivalry setting the stage for the theme, which is family interactions. We hear about the Greek idea of family while being stared at by a large, realistic-looking hanging statue head of Oedipus, member of another troubled family.
There is very little Pirandello in the play, but we do hear these lines of his that resonate through time as the characters, wearing lighted masks, explain how they came to be without a script present: “… one is born in many forms, in many shapes, as a tree, or as a stone, as water, a butterfly… So one may also be born a character in a play.” And later when asked where is the book? “The drama is in us, and we are the drama.”
However, the use of so many additional experimental elements creates a disconnected experience.
Everything is narrated by a Margaret Mead puppet on a motorized scooter. It’s easy to see the director’s intention, which is to make a social statement about families. In that, it succeeds, but bringing film footage of the infamous Loud family into the play, and embodying the city of Flint and its water crisis made for too many elements, defeating my expectations. Yet, I suspect that defeating traditional theatrical expectations in favor of something larger and closer to real-life issues may have been this production’s goal. In that it succeeds.
Written, Directed, Designed, and Adapted by Theodora Skipitares with a nod to Luigi Pirandello
Dramaturgy: Andrea Balis, Music composed by Sxip Shirey and Jordan Morton, Set Design by Donald Eastman, Technical Design by Jane Catherine Shaw.
With Jan Leslie Harding, Chris Ignacio, Jordan Morton, Jane Catherine Shaw, Thomas Walker, Molly Ballerstein, Brandon Fisette, Maiko Kikuchi, Britt Moseley, Atticus Stevenson and Estelle Parsons as the voice of Margaret Mead.
SIX CHARACTERS will perform March 31-April 16 – Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m, LaMama Theatre. Tickets are $25. $20 for students/seniors. With 10 for $10 also available. To purchase: visit www.lamama.org or call 646 430 5374.