What would you do if you were a director of a play and six unknown figures show up on your stage, claiming to have been abandoned by their author, and beg to be characters (not actors) in your play? If you are already confused, then you are reading it correctly. Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello has written a “staged inception” where reality and fiction are constantly in battle, and seem almost interchangeable at times. The French theatre company Theatre de la Ville has taken Pirandello’s literary genius and has brought it to life with a full throttle of energy. The choreography between scene changes was fluid, almost balletic. The characters (played by the French actors) were expressive and experienced. They knew how to use their whole voice and body in every motion, every projection. For me, it almost didn’t matter how ridiculous the play in front of me was becoming – I was entranced by the beauty of the French and the collective imagination.
Although the play itself is quite innovative, experimental and sometimes difficult to follow, that was quite expected from simply reading the playbill synopsis, which was written as if it was a script itself. It was like we, the audience, had become characters cast in Pirandello’s piece to play the role of “AUDIENCE.” Yes…whoa…my exact thinking.
The only problem was the logistics of the subtitles. Because the play was performed solely in French, English subtitles were very necessary to even attempt to understand what Pirandello was trying to get across. But, unlike a movie, where your eyes can flutter peripherally from scene to text, the electronic marquis was so far above the stage that you couldn’t focus on both stage and screen at the same time. I always felt like I was missing either one or the other, and therefore, could not appreciate fully the humor and wit of the dialogue, nor the theatrical skills of the actors. Because this specific play is both visually and linguistically dependent, it would be beneficial for UMS to consider alternate placements for the subtitles in order to achieve maximum audience enjoyment and understanding. And UMS should not let language barriers or a little bit of absurdist literary theory stop them from trying again, because pushing the boundaries of the arts is what UMS does best. Just not pushing them too far that we can’t see the subtitles!