Six Characters Looking For A Writer

Review by Willard Manus

LOS ANGELES -- Robert Benedetti's "new version" of the Luigi Pirandello classic--the translation is by Barbara Sellers--employs video work by David Lee Kelting (who also co-directed the play) to open up and modernize the original text. The set-up is that the six characters in search of a writer (it would have been more accurate for Sellers to have used the word playwright, if only because they come to a theatre for help) have been part of a reality-tv show. "Who are we?" they demand to know. "How can we evolve, live, when we are trapped inside ourselves by forces that control our lives, dictate the way we live and speak?" Those and other questions of truth vs. illusion, free will vs. fate are aired out by The Six and by the actors whose play rehearsal they have interrupted. Pirandello loved to explore the dialectical relationship between person and actor; this exploration, familiar as it is eighty-two years after SIX CHARACTERS was first performed, still has the capacity to challenge and provoke. But it requires an excellent actor in the lead role of The Father to make the play more than just an intellectual exercise. The Benedetti production is lucky to have Daniel Tamm in its cast. Thanks to his stage presence and splendid speaking voice, Tamm is able to carry the play on his shoulders. The other actors who benefit from his star power include King Manuel, Donna Pieroni (as the beleagured director, a female in this version), George Christopoulos, Matt Crabtree, Irene Roseen, Alison Lees-Taylor, Beth Tapper, Georgia Simon, Ryan J. Wulf and two child actors, Zoe Randol and Austin Cormany. Benedetti and Keiting handle the stage and video action skilfully, but they have failed to keep the actors from screeching in one-note fashion throughout.

At the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., LA through Nov. 2. Call (310) 477-2055 or visit