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SIX CHARACTERS LOOKING FOR A WRITER

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ere are two tacks one could take in reviving a revolutionary, challenging play. One could simply play the piece as originally written, inviting the audience to imagine itself visiting the material for the first time; or one could adapt the play for a modern audience in an attempt to recreate the effect of the original. The latter is obviously the more daring route. Today's audience—even if unfamiliar with the groundbreaking play itself—is conversant with the type of theatre that has evolved since that ground was broken. To take that audience by the shoulders and shake it out of its complacency, the adaptation must be downright earth-shattering. Robert Benedetti's adaptation of Luigi Pirandello's classic has good ideas going for it but doesn't take them nearly far enough. Benedetti and co-director David Lee Kelting's major contribution to the piece is the addition of a video monitor, playing live video—from a camera mounted downstage—and prerecorded scenes. The idea is solid. Pirandello's script explores the nature of identity, reality, and character. Benedetti seeks to further explore these concepts through film and reality TV. But only once in the production, in a powerful scene played simultaneously live onstage and prerecorded on television, is the audience fully faced with the question of which is more real. For the most part the television monitor remains unused, or is merely a gimmick or distraction. Daniel Tamm gives an understated performance as the Father, the leader of the six Characters who interrupt a Director and Actors rehearsing a play. Even when he is describing the tragic history of his family of Characters, he is strangely detached. In contrast, Beth Tapper plays his Stepdaughter as a walking, talking mood swing. While the Stepdaughter certainly has cause to alternate between explosive anger and sly seductiveness, Tapper takes both a little too far. With the two main Character performances somewhat divorced from honest realism, the suggestion that the Characters might be more real than the Actors they meet is not implicit in this production. It is, however, explicit in the ongoing debate between the Father and the Director, whose rehearsal the Characters have interrupted. Donna Pieroni expresses the Director's befuddlement well, but she sometimes has trouble plausibly transitioning from a frazzled director into a woman arguing the nature of reality and defending her own existence. For all its flaws, the production has its moments, particularly in the unique staging of its finale that nearly justifies the slightly unreal performances that have gone before. Largely, however, the promise of a jarring high-tech revival of Pirandello's classic remains unrealized. "Six Characters Looking for a Writer," presented by and at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A. Wed.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Sep. 6-Nov. 2. $12-25. (310) 477-205

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