Beneath the glassy surface of this play lurks a psychological shocker and a philosphical conundrum. It concerns itself with a chic fivesome - two couples and an "extra man" - whose sunny existence is about to take a turn for the worse. The setting being 1935 Italy, Pirandello's play couldn't have been more topical.
A storm is brewing in Count Romeo Daddi (Peter Hirsch)'s brain; he is going mad, apparently in remorse over a murder he committed as a boy many years ago. In fact, he is also guilty of adultery with his friend Giorgio Vanzi (Jamie Harris)'s wife, Ginevra (Melissa Ramon). To complete the snakepit, the count seems to believe that Marquis Nicola Respi (Marvin Safford) has eyes for the countess (Joanna Parker).
Not all the preceding facts come out right away; indeed, when the adultery surfaces, the countess conspires with the illicit once-lovers to keep the secret from Vanzi, a proud naval officer. Each time a half-truth emerges, the players come up with a half-lie to explain it. When there are no more questions, and all the necessary coverups have been made, the count knocks down the whole house of cards by telling the "real" truth - and provoking homicidal rage on the part of Giorgio, in the final seconds of the play.
The newly formed Refugee Theatre Co. deserve a lot of credit for choosing this little-done play. They performed it with a slickness more aspired to than achieved Off-Off-Broadway. If anything, their (well-cast) performances were too glib, going for obvious readings and stresses in lines when a little more exploration would have revealed more meaning (as opposed to Meaning).
The set (Mr. Bridel and Anna Spence) was a few set pieces in front of blue drapes. Lighting (Shawn Gallagher) was mostly general. The incidental music was well-chosen for its alternating superficiality and spookiness.
As of the date of this production, the company planned to put on The Seagull in February. It will be interesting to see what happens with a larger cast in a bigger play.
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Copyright 1998 John Chatterton