Now you see it...

As You See It

By Luigi Pirandello
Adapted and directed by Alexa Kelly
Pulse Ensemble Theatre
432 W. 42nd St. (695-1596)
Equity showcase (closes Apr. 10)
Review by Julie Halpern

As You See It is part of the Pulse Ensemble Theatre's innaugural "Bare Bones Classics"(BBC) series. The brainchild of Pulse's artistic director, Alexa Kelly, these productions are actor- and text-driven, with little attention paid to scenic device. Kelly has adapted and updated Pirandello's Right You Are If You Think You Are, and Pirandello's experimentation with illusion vs. reality strikes a chord at a time when tabloids and talk shows skew reality to the point where it is impossible to tell where truth lies.

Society matron Amalia Agazzi (Margaret Kale) and her friends have become obsessed with their new neighbors - a charming widow, Mrs. Frola (Maureen Hayes); her son-in-law, Mr. Ponza (Sam Stewart); and Mrs. Frola's daughter Julia, whose actual existence is in doubt. Mrs. Frola claims to visit Julia daily but can only see her standing in the window, because Ponza won't allow her to go out. Ponza claims that Julia died four years ago, that the woman in the window is his second wife, and that Mrs. Frola is certifiably insane. The search for the truth throws the Agazzi household and their friends into a state of pandemonium, and before we know it, the whole city is involved, with everyone having differing views about who is telling the truth.

Ms. Kelly's humorous adaptation and skillful directing, and the talented cast's commitment, managed to make Pirandello's self-absorbed socialites almost likable, even sympathetic. The only difficulty was a second act which tended to drag, due to the one-note nature of the plot.

Margaret Kale did a fine job as the impeccably stylish socialite Amalia, whose obsession with the Frola affair reduces her to a wild-haired hysteric by play's end. Arthur Lundquist infused the role of Amalia's dull government official husband with an unexpected youthful energy. John Arthur Lewis exuded a powerful stage presence and a wicked sense of humor as Amalia's brother Lamberto Laudisi, the only character with a grasp of reality. Faye Armon was a delight as Amalia's punked-out daughter Dina, whose tattoos, piercings, and wardrobe became more outrageous in every scene.

Juliehera Destefano and Count Stovall were polished and attractive as the Agazzis' snobbish friends the Sirellis, but Destefano's facial expressions were too broad for the intimate space. Maureen Hayes projected motherly warmth as the notorious Mrs. Frola, and Sam Stewart was a monumental presence as the high-strung, passionate Ponza. Julie Polson was hilarious as the gullible, gossipy Mrs. Cini, and Dan Snow's trenchcoat-clad, dark-glasses-wearing detective Centuri was a delicious send-up of private investigators .

Russell Cappellino, Linda Past, Janna Genzlinger, Gina Norman, Carrie Morgan Dye, and Rick Warner were enjoyable in the smaller roles.

Liam O'Brien's bright costumes were attractive and flattering, but the broad-shouldered suits worn by the women looked more like "Dynasty" reruns from 1985 than present-day fashion. Jennifer Varbalow's sets had a luxurious feel thanks to a number of fine antique pieces. Herrick Goldman's lighting enhanced the attractive set. Romantic piano music interspersed with jazz and other eclectic music helped set the mood during the pre-show and during set changes.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1999 Julie Halpern