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Theater Reviews

Apr 24, 2004 - Nevada Rep's interesting, non revealing "Six Characters in Search of an Author"

By Jack Neal

Luigi Pirandello's "Six Characters in Search of an Author" is a reality-challenged play. What's real and what isn't? Stepping through the veil which separates illusion from reality is what sets the art of Pirandello into an especially high realm of human revelation.

Subtlety is the name of Pirandello's game and that's what's missing from the Nevada Repertory Company's presentation of "Six Characters in Search of an Author."

The play opened Friday night (4/23/04) on stage, literally, at the Redfield Proscenium Theatre. Or is it the Redfield Studio Theatre? Nevada Rep, under the formidable guidance of director Jim Bernardi, is adroit at establishing the blurred vision right off that's so important in getting what this marvelous and complex play is up to.

Three acts, some stunning performances and two hours and twenty minutes later the "getting" part of what the play is really up to doesn't jell into a moving illusion/reality-bourne experience. To its diminshed credit this production, through this thoughtful but flawed presentation, comes off as at least entertaining avant-garde theater, but not the fascinating revelation of the human condition "Six Characters" can be, when it's given a more understated, focused view.

The play within a play involves a cast rehearsing a Pirandello play interrupted by six fully-developed characters abandoned by their author without the script that would free their spirits. The action intensifies as the six characters team with the pre-existing cast (the six characters dictate a script the cast is to act) to present their lives as the six characters perceive their lives really are.

Not satisfied with illusion, but demanding reality, the six refuse the melodramatic playing of their lives they believe they see as little more than "throwing back our images, twisted and distorted." The revelatory moment when an audience grasps what Pirandello is up to never materializes in this production. Art imitates life, which in turn imitates art. "A character is somebody," Pirandello wrote. "A man is nobody."

As a collection of players, the six characters as actors are compelling. As a collection of players the pre-existing cast as characters are too miscast to complete Pirandello's complex picture of what it means when "all the world's a stage." There has to be a reasonable expectation that the cast could actually attempt to be a life it plays, not just parody a life. The impact of "Six Characters in Search of an Author" is damaged when artifice and melodrama replace the power and drama of life as it may really exist, whether in reality or the illusion of reality which can become reality.

All of that having been said, this Nevada Repertory Company presentation of "Six Characters in Search of an Author" is worth seeing because it is, among many other good things, provocative.

As the Stepdaughter in search of her life, Jenifer Crenshaw is at all times magnetic and superb. Miss Crenshaw gives a tour de force performance that is itself worth whatever effort it takes to experience this Pirandello play. As the Father and Stepdaughter's stepfather, Blair Anthony gives an entirely gripping encounter with illusion imitating reality. Mr. Anthony is believable in a role that constantly flaunts believability. As the Son, John S. Simpson presents a strong portrait of a demonized young man. As the Mother, Annie V. Scanlon - a highly competent actor - plays at a too overly-distraught level to make her pivitol role all it needs to be.

As the director of the pre-existing cast, Brian Barney gives a strong, assured performance. It's a performance, however, that's dented by those players in the pre-existing cast who are too out of touch in both look and demeanor to give "Six Characters" the pathos and the dramatic punch it must have to succeed more than just superficially.

The Nevada Repertory Company's presentation of Pirandello's "Six Characters in Search of an Author" can be seen at the Redfield Studio Theatre on the University of Nevada Reno campus, 900 North Virginia Street, Reno, April 23, 24, 28, 29, 30, May 1 (2004) at 7:30 p.m. and May 2 (2004) at 1:30 p.m. For information call 775-784-6847.

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