REVIEWED BY ISAAC SCRANTON
6 ACTORS IN SEARCH OF A CHARACTER
Written and Directed by Edward Eriksson
Nolan Charles, Katrina Clairvoyant, Sean Dowling, Sean Koslorowski, Estrella Mundos, and Krisbel Brenes Sandi.
Performance Dates: Fri 7/17, 8:00pm; Sat 7/18, 4:30pm;
Sun 7/19, 2:00pm; Tue 7/21, 7:00pm; Mon 7/27 7:00pm.
Running time: 75 minutes
Davenport Theatre, Black Box, 354 W. 45th Street,
between 8th and 9th Avenues.
One has to tip one’s hat to the effort of the students and faculty of Suffolk County Community College’s Theatre Program for a solid attempt at originality in MITF’s Next Generation Series.
An unabashedly self-conscious meta-theatrical farce exploring the concept of Realism vs Illusion, 6 Actors in Search of a Character is a veritable Acting 101 class that goes through all the familiar tropes of theatrical tradition.
In a series of vignettes, the cast presents us with a play-within-a-play-within-a-play, mixing styles like paint as the actors-playing-actors-playing-stage-techs-playing-audience-members attempt to create a work that’s more performance art than traditional narrative. They break the fourth wall with impunity, relying on old stage tricks, well-placed audience plants, deliberately-mistaken identities, a recitation of Shakespeare’s Prospero in Korean and even a disembodied-then-re-embodied angelic deus-ex-machina to disrupt the narrative of each scene until the audience is unsure whether they’re watching a full play or a spontaneous collection of improv exercises. They even at one point echo the Living Theatre’s classic Paradise Now by inviting the audience to join them on stage. One wonders what they would have done had any of the audience had the courage to do so.
As they leave their initial premise of a last-minute preview of a new Streetcar-esque piece about a turned-table semi-monogamous S&M relationship, the stressed-out cast and crew devolve into murderous love-triangles culminating in the actors turning into non-verbal beasts. The question of where to draw the line of suspension of disbelief is deliberately turned into a major centerpiece of the experience.
Ironically – or perhaps, not so ironically – the most truthful moment of the play occurs when Tiffany (played by project veteran Katrina Clairvoyant) comes out as the Director-Actor Dante’s (Nick Zale) “perfect” actress in a full Eyes Wide Shut expressionless face mask and is presented as a living doll to play out whatever whims the Playwright and Director can conceive.
Actual project Writer-Director Ed Eriksson, playing an actor playing Playwright Ed Eriksson, is clearly working with some big ideas and does his best to keep the action on stage coherent enough for the audience to follow. With a proverbial wink – and a very jaunty beret — he peels away layer upon layer of theatrical conceit with some masterful monologues, only to remind us that all of this is, of course, pretend. I found myself wishing that his youthful company would have taken things a bit more seriously in order to really sell the comedy. As it was, they came across as what they truly were: students loyally learning the ropes at the feet of their teacher, but not yet standing on their own.
The program note asks us, “Who isn’t an actor?” With a bit more seasoning, I’m confident that this cast will all make fine ones.