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Pirandello, an old favorite of the Brattle Hall Company, returned to Cambridge Tuesday night. The play, "Six Characters in Search of an Author," may well be his best, and the ambitious group could not have found a better play to inaugurate its new season.
The play opens when the six characters appear on the Brattle Hall stage during the rehearsal of a rather banal dramatic effort. The leader of the group, the father, says to the director, "... the author who created us no longer wished, or was no longer able, to put us into a work of art. The author may die--but his creation must live. We want to live," he tells the director and asks him to write their play.
When the author abandoned them, the characters were stranded in an unpleasant reality. Reality itself is peculiar to characters, because according to Pirandello actual people are merely "fleeting illusions," lacking the specific confines of a drama which would mark them with a firm and definite individuality.
The Brattle Hall Company, aided by Joseph Schildkraut and Ruth Ford, has taken Pirandello's philosophie work and given it life. The theme, that there in an inner reality in an individual which can only be seen once his particular drama is recognized, is bandled with the skill befitting the work. All the tragedy, the anguish of incommunicability, is brought forth by the interplay between the forlorn characters and the befuddled actors.
Mr. Schildkraut, as the head of the family of characters, is excellent. He portrays a tormented soul, whose author has mistakenly chosen a bad moment for the exposure of his inner self. In his expression, his gestures, and his voice, Schildkraut mirrors Pirandello's character in near-perfect fashion. Miss Ford also performs credibly, but on opening night there was just a little bit too much of the philosophical in her voice, a little too much posing in her gestures.
Peter Temple, who directed the actual production, also plays the director of the play within a play. It is he who heads the opposition to the father's quest for recognition of his reality, a difficult role if the play is to achieve maximum effectiveness. Mr. Temple handles his double burden with natural case and ability. Although his direction is slow-paced from time to time, the overall effect is one of distraught tension.
There is but one set, the stage of the theatre. The curtain is up before the play opens and one assumes that the scene is actually Brattle Hall. Since there is no scenery, the stage cannot be criticized; what was played on it was good.
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