Off-Broadway's Jean Cocteau Repertory, one of the few true repertory theatre companies in America, opened its revival of Six Characters In Search Of An Author Oct. 13.
Luigi Pirandello's modernist classic caused a riot at its 1921 Rome premiere because theatregoers balked at the author's blurring of reality and illusion in the world of the play. (Its celebrated Paris staging two years later caused a similar sensation, this time to favorable effect.)
The play shows the members of a small theatre troupe being nonplussed by the interruption of their rehearsal by real people -- an unhappy family, who want the actors to transform their sordid little lives into drama.
Eve Adamson will direct Cocteau Rep's production, which will have certain Fellini-esque aspects to its staging and music, "aiming to maximize the qualities of magic, mystery and theatricality" in the production. That said, Adamson won't be taking many liberties with the play: "You don't abstract too much with Pirandello," she admonished. "He takes you on a trip.
Adamson staged Pirandello's Enrico IV at the theatre in 1993 and is using the casting there as a blueprint for the Six Characters ensemble. For example, since company member Harris Berlinsky played Henry in Enrico, he will be the father in Six Characters, because both characters ask, `what is real?' and `what role do I play?'. Elise Stone, who played the daughter in Enrico, will tackle the stepdaughter this time. Kennedy Brown played the young man in Enrico, in Six Characters he's the son. Other actors drawn from the permanent Cocteau repertory include Craig Smith, Abnere Genese, Joseph Menino, Molly Pietz and Christopher Black. Not only do Cocteau cast-members assay bigger and smaller roles from play to play (e.g., Craig Smith, who's usually a lead player for the company), but they actually run two shows in repertory. Six Characters In Search Of An Author runs on alternating nights with What The Butler Saw, which was recently extended to Nov. 8 and is expected to extend again after that.
Jean Cocteau Repertory is a the Bouwerie Lane Theatre on the Bowery, just skirting New York's East Village. For tickets and information on Six Characters In Search Of An Author, call (212) 677-0060.
-- By David Lefkowitz