“Six Characters In Search Of An Author”
Pirandello’s metatheatre masterpiece ‘mined’ for humor at Archway Theatre
Fast becoming the North Hollywood Arts District’s premiere classical theatre company, the Archway Theatre presents everything from the great Greek tragedies to the most recent classics of early modernism, such as Luigi Pirandello’s “Six Characters In Search Of An Author.” Pirandello’s masterpiece of metatheatre will be performed June 24 through July 22. Performances 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $28. Special preview performance Friday, June 23.
Adapted and directed by producing artistic director Steven Sabel, the Archway production of “Six Characters In Search Of An Author” focuses primarily on the humor within Pirandello’s script as a means to deliver the poignant philosophical aspects of the play’s modernist and metatheatrical aspects.
In the play, a stage director and a group of actors are interrupted from their planned rehearsal when six strange characters arrive and ask that their story be played upon the stage. The director clashes with actors and characters alike while also trying to become the author needed to tell the story.
“This is a play for and about theatre people and audiences of the theater. Pirandello pokes satirical jabs at writers, directors, actors, stage managers, audiences – pretty much everybody involved; and we are mining the text for the golden humor of every hilariously barbed punchline,” said Sabel.
Sabel believes that the play is supposed to serve “as a kind of mirror” to the performers and the audience alike while they share their mutual experience. He says too many past productions of the play have been overly focused on the “darkest areas of that mirror.” “Pirandello understood that self-reflection absolutely must include good humor. It is the spoon full of sugar that helps us swallow those other aspects of looking inward that trouble us so,” Sabel said. “We have to be able to laugh at ourselves while acknowledging our inner truths.”
The Archway production is also focusing on the play’s themes of identity and truth. In an interesting twist, the cast members playing the actors, and the cast members playing the characters, will alternate roles from performance to performance.
“I was inspired by Pirandello’s lines between the actors and the characters at the point in the play when it is being decided which actor will play which character once the characters’ play is written. To punctuate one of his recurring jabs at actors throughout the play, Pirandello has one of the characters turn to the actor and say, ‘you couldn’t possible play me.’ It is a brilliantly funny moment,” said Sabel.
Sabel said that moment, and other similar moments in the play are only further accentuated by the cast members in both roles actually playing both roles back and forth throughout the run of the show.
“Which is which? Who is who? Pirandello asks us whether or not we can believe that an actor can ever capture the true essence of a character. Through his humor, he makes us question everything we know about theatre, and thus we appreciate theatre even more through his play,” Sabel said.
Cast members include Bill Bingham, Sommer Branham, James J. Cox, Benjamin Cramer, Jessica Barrett Denison, Angela Dobson, Masi Hasher, Tomas Velasquez, Carol Vandegrift,Melissa Virgo, Sylvia Walker, and Bree Wernicke.
A gala reception featuring food a drinks with the cast and crew will be held following the opening night performance Saturday, June 24. The Archway Studio/Theatre is located at 10509 Burbank blvd., North Hollywood, CA. For additional information visit: www.archwayla.com or call (818)980-PLAY (7529).
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