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|A CurtainUp Review
Right You Are
The spinmeistering of current news events, the rash of tabloid celebrity stories and TV reality shows make it ever more difficult to tell where truth lies. No wonder, that Tony Randall thought that Pirandello's own Right You Are, which makes a satirical case for truth being subjective and relative, would prove as apt and timely a revival for his National Actors Theatre as last season's superb production of The Persians. Unfortunately, as director Ethan McSweeney made Aeschylus's play soar, director Fabrizio Melano has done little to make Pirandello's farce gain altitude. His production moves at a snail's pace with the actors too often sitting and standing around as if in one of the operas he most frequently directs.
On the positive side we have Eric Bentley excellent translation which is colloquial but never slangy and captures the farcical flavor of a group of provincial gossips bent on pinning down the truth about the unconventional and mysterious behavior of a newly arrived government official, his mysteriously unseen wife and her mother. These players are not actors (as in Pirandelllo's most famous play, Six Characters In Search of an Author) but real and quite ordinary people. Since there are six principal gossips -- the Agazzis (Councillor Agazzi, his wife, daughter and brother-in-law) and their neighbors, Signor and Signora Signelli -- this might well be called Six People in Search of the Truth about Two Strangers. Except for Lamberto Laudini, the more open-minded Agazzi in-law and Pirandello's stand-in, the truth these characters seek is a logical, either/or truth. The truth the author, via Laudini, asks us to accept is one which separates reality from illusion and truth from fiction.
While The Persians evoked sharp parallels to world events, what we have here is an attempt to do the same for a drawing room fable. The sense of a too grand production can be attributed in part to the Michael Schimmel Center's imposing stage which is separated from the front row seats by the equivalent of about four rows and doesn't lend itself to intimate staging. Consequently, James Noone's black and white marble and mirrors set does rather aptly echo the sense of identities reflected and shattered in the mirror of perception (in fact "mirror theater" was a term often used in relation to Pirandello's work like Six Characters in Search of an Author). The set is also a more obvious reflection of the time shift from 1917, when the play was written, to Italy during the 1930s. All that's missing is for one of the two monster statues at either side of the set to be of Mussolini for us to hear the rumblings of facism in the various characters' demands to know the truth about their new neighbors' behavior as a way of protecting the conformity to accepted standards.
The situation that throws the assembled citizens into such a tizzy that the police commissioner and governor of the province must be brought in to help adjudicate the matter is this: Village newcomers Signor Ponza (Brennan Brown), his wife (Florencia Lozano) and mother-in-law, Signora Frola (Maria Tucci) have moved into separate establishments next door to his employer Councillor Agazzi (Henry Strozier). After Agazzi's wife (Penny Fuller) and daughter's (Mireille Enos) social overtures to Signora Frola are rejected, first the widow and then her son-in-law try to explain their behavior to the Agazzis, who are joined by their friends Signore and Signora Sirelli (Peter Maloney and Jurian Hughes) and several curious townspeople (Yolande Bavan and Natalie Norwick). The trouble is that each has a different explanation for Ponza's wife being locked up in the upstairs apartment, so that her mother's visits are restricted to her standing below the window where Senora Ponza stands as a shadowy figure.
Signora Frola, claims that Ponza, keeps her daughter a prisoner, but that she is a prisoner of love and not unhappy which is why she (Signora Frola) accepts this possessiveness as a weakness in her otherwise kind son-in-law. Ponza, on the other hand, states that his mother-in-law was maddened by her daughter's death in an earthquake and that the woman in the window is his seond wife, who has gone along with the pretense to keep the old woman from sinking deeper into madness. The earthquake which did or did not kill Signora Frola's daughter has also destroyed all records so that the truth of these stories is hard to pin down. Laudini is willing to see the " truth" in both stories but not so his relatives and the rest of the increasingly agitated friends and town folks. When, on the Governor's orders the mysterious Signora Ponzi is summoned, Laudini has the last laugh since the truth turns into a Pirandellian enigma.
With many modern theater goers more familiar with what Pirandello stands for than his actual plays, it would be nice to have a more lively production of this rarely done play, more commonly known as (Right You Are (If You Think So). Too bad that the absence of the title tag, which so perfectly fits the Pirandellian you-be-the-judge ending, is the least of what's wrong with this Right You Are.
LINKS TO REVIEWS OF OTHER SHOWS MENTIONED
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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