Right You Are

At the Brattle

Luigi Pirandello's Right You Are (If You Think You Are) is at first glance a grotesque mixture of Shaw and Cervantes. Its moral is the gospel of Don Quixote, that the only reality lies in men's dreams and visions, and its dramatic technique, is the old Shavian play of subverting story for an intellectual theme. There is no such thing as objective truth, says Pirandello, and he manipulates his puppets to prove his point.

Luckily, however, he is not in deadly earnest. The play becomes a fable as Pirandello spoofs the vulgar curiosity of a group of materially minded citizens in a Central Italy town, and shows the futility of their search for facts. The comedy has practically no plot, and what dramatic conflict there is arises from the characters' ideas rather than from differences in their temperaments. And yet Pirandello, along with the Brattle players, keeps the audience continually chasing around after new strands of evidence, trying to unravel the stories of the two protagonists.

About the only fact of which the author lets the audience be completely certain is that an earthquake has ravaged a small Italian city, and three of its survivors have migrated to the town where the play's action takes place. Their unconventional behaviour towards one another puzzles the towns-people, and an informal committee sets itself up to find out exactly what the story is. Nothing can be determined except that one of the protagonists is mad. Which one, it is impossible to decide.

The difficult task of stringing the audience along as part of the investigatory committee (while the author constantly emphasizes that it is worthless to search for the truth) falls to the two main characters, played by Mildred Dunnock and Martin Gabel. With no distinctive characteristics other than their separate visions of the family set-up, they still manage to become credible, and one's sympathy switches periodically from one to the other. Miss Dunnock particularly, is excellent, her expressions and voice wavering just on the borderline between madness and sanity.

Philip Bourneuf takes the part of Lamberto, Pirandello's chorus and sarcastic commentator on the proceedings. His vague, devil-may-care attitude is amusingly played, though it contrasts somewhat to his dull, aphoristic remarks on the relativity of truth. The minor characters are all stylized portraits, and are played by the Brattle players purely for laughs. Outstanding among theme were Cavada Humphrey, Jerry Kilty, and Catherine Huntington.

Much of the credit for an enjoyable production of this difficult play must go to the perceptive direction of Eric Bentley, who never lets the action drag for a moment. Lester Polakov's set also was effective, combining the elegance of an claborate town house with the stark atmosphere of a Chamber of Inquisition.