Friday, October 31, 2014

Six Characters at BAM

Pirandello’s Six Characters at BAM
One of Gertrude Stein’s most famous lines is, “there is no there there.” Theatre de la Ville’s production of Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author directed by Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota and currently playing at BAM visualizes Stein’s phenomenology as Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Shadows hidden behind scrims of Yves Collet’s set mask elusive ideal forms which never divulge their true essence. A great piece of art can sometimes make the familiar strange and new, allowing the viewer to feel he or she's seeing the world anew. It also can create a feeling of understanding. In Pirandello the reverse takes place. Art and theater are the lie that doesn’t tell the truth and it’s the unformed protoplasm of reality that’s one step closer to revelation (the playwright, an early practitioner of metatheater, comments dismissively about his The Rules of the Game that’s being rehearsed at the beginning and offered by one Luigi Pirandello). But then even so called reality begins to fail the test and in the end the director (Alain Libolt) simply says “tell the electrician, turn everything off.” And who is this electrician but the prime mover, the force that makes us conscious of the world, Descartes's maxim reversed, “sum ergo cogito.” The current production with its actors playing actors and actors playing supposedly real people points to the huge influence Pirandello has had on both theater and film. Could you imagine Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche,New York where human life is imagined as an enormous stage set, without Six Characters? The other side to Six Characters are also the primordial passions, which can make it sound like something in between an afternoon soap and classic tragedy. And in spite of all the modernity, there were times when the current French version iterated at breakneck speed made Pirandello’s lines sound curiously like Corneille and Racine—minus the alexandrines, of course. Attempting to parse the subtitles, unless you’ve taken speed reading, can also give you vertigo.

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