Duquesne University’s Red Masquers current production is Luigi Pirandello’s play, Six Characters in Search of an Author. This absurdist metatheatrical play tackles the struggle between the artist and the author, and the difficulties in producing compelling art. While on its own the material is an interesting and thought-provoking read, it proves to be an odd theater-going experience, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Six Characters in Search of an Author centers around a group of actors and their director during a rehearsal. They are interrupted by a group of people who refer to themselves as “characters.” As the title suggests, these characters are in search of an author who can tell their story. The Director is intrigued and allows them to share their story and attempts to recreate it on stage. What results is a battle between characters, actors, and director; each fighting for the story to be told in their own terms.
While it is easy to understand the basic elements of the show, it can be difficult at times to follow along with the intricacies of the plot. I don’t quite put the blame on this particular production, however, because Pirandello purposefully wrote it to be confusing and hard to follow. It is supposed to leave you with more questions than answers. I think some theatergoers would enjoy that as it challenges the traditional form of most theatrical productions. Personally, I enjoyed the absurdness of the material itself and think it makes for a compelling read, but I didn’t quite enjoy it as a play. A good chunk of the show relies heavily on lengthy monologues that don’t provide any action or advancement in plot. It forces the actors onstage to simply stand and listen. This results in very little movement on stage and few changes in scenery. Whether this was a decision on director Ashley C. Brown’s part, or just how the play is supposed to work is up for debate. I think for this play to succeed you would need the perfect cast who could really sell the material and make the audience invested in the madness. While there were a few actors who stood out to me, as an ensemble I do not think the actors brought anything new to the material to make it compelling for the stage.
Mark Yochum should be commended for his role as The Father, for the majority of this show rests on his shoulders. He has the daunting task of reciting (and memorizing) many long philosophical soliloquies. Even with all he takes on, his performance is spot-on and absolutely the highlight of the show. I also found Max Begler to be very enjoyable as The Manager. He manages to provide a few laughs while dealing with the absurdity of the “characters.” Another standout was one of the ensemble members, Julie Loesch. Her role was small, but I liked the attitude she brought to the scenes she was featured in. Her performance was subtle, but realistic.
The set was minimalistic. The show is supposed to be take place on a stage in a theater, so not much was needed in the way of set pieces or props. I have to say I did enjoy the costume pieces of the “characters—” especially The Step-Daughter’s costume. She looked like a flapper girl right out of the 20s.
When the performance ended, I heard audience members around me remarking that they wished they had read the play before coming to the performance so they could have had a better understanding of it. I have to say I agree with them. I looked up a copy online afterwards and it did help me with some of the confusion I had. While I do not think doing research on a play is inherently bad, I think it is odd that to fully understand it you have to do some outside reading.
I do not think this production will resonate well with the average theatergoer, but if you’re open to a different theater experience, definitely give Six Characters a try. Although I found the material to be interesting, I feel this particular production fell a little flat.
Six Characters in Search of an Author plays at the Genesis Theater through February 24. For tickets, visit Duquesne Red Masquer’s site.
Jade Goodes is a graduate of Penn Sate University where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English. While attending Penn State she became the Managing Editor for the school’s literary & arts magazine, Absence. Jade has been involved with the Pittsburgh theater community since elementary school, and has performed in many productions over the years. In her free time she enjoys reading and attending all the concerts she can.
Categories: Archived Reviews