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Naked deals with the themes of media driven sensationalism and the
publics need to believe in a manufactured, sympathetic and heroic truth. Ersilia
Drei is a nanny whose charge dies while in her care. Subsequently she is dismissed,
left by her lover, and turns to selling her body on the streets. After an article detailing her attempted suicide and
story is published she becomes an instant romanticized celebrity. The reporter, a best selling writer, her former
lover and employer all pursue Ersilia in search for the true account of events, or at
least what would be acceptable as the truth according to each individuals needy
The Themantics Group production of Naked, translated by Nina daVinci Nichols, is an economic and effective presentation. Although this initial comment may seem tepid, it is meant as high praise for a collaborative effort that presents Pirandellos work to a relatively uninitiated American audience (whose main exposure has been to Six Characters in Search of an Author and not much else). Adriano Tilger, Pirandellos contemporary and critic of his work, describes the dramatic language of Pirandello as agile, astute, mobile, full of sap, bursting with inner vitality; the dialogue, restrained, exact, with no ornamental appendages, the images immediate and germane, bends itself wonderfully to follow the sinuosities of psychological processes. Quite the challenge to the translator who wants to retain this experimental use of Italian language through the English and who also needs to make choices of meaning appropriate to the Pirandellian themes of illusion and reality dramatized into action. Nina daVinci Nichols achieves both through a crisp, sharp and concise (forgiving according to Nichols) translation. This allows for the director and actors to work freely within Pirandellos theatrical vision.
Blake Lawrence is a diverse and talented director who did not impose any unnecessary ornamental appendages, as lesser directors tend to do. In terms of staging, all entrances, exits and movements of the characters were sudden and precise reflecting the Pirandellian concept of characters seemingly dropped into a dramatic situation as human beings are in life.
All of the action occurs in a literary mans small apartment, the commentator of the play, Ludivico (Timothy Warmen). His home becomes a microcosm created by three flats and simply furnished based on necessity: wooden letter writing desk strewn with papers, a couch and a chair. The most looming set piece is the large window that opens to the street where the voices of venders, passersby and urban life create an eighth offstage character (sets by Jen Varbalow). The costumes (designed by Cathy Small) hinted at the fashion of the early 1920s, but were not obsessively authentic. They were more focused on distinguishing class and role: The working class suspenders of Franco (Peter Macklin) and the worn secondhand dress of Ersilia (dynamically played by Margaret Nichols) versus the finest linen suit donned by Grotti (Patrick Hall).
The whole enactment of the play had a neutrality, or perhaps more appropriately, a fluidity of time, place and culture which allowed the social commentary to be clearly communicated through the dramatic situation of these characters--individuals who seem to be searching for truth but who are caught up in their own shallow nosiness and ego-driven desires. Even the voices of the street are not discernable as Italian, English or other. With the address of Italian names these events could easily be taking place in Little Italy as opposed to Rome, or any urban city for that matter. Seduction, deception, and revelation create a whirligig of happenings. This is a reflection of human behavior that is pervasive throughout history and certainly in the current political and social climate in America where blame and proof are often manufactured to suit special interests (whether personal or political). The even larger deception is a when a lie becomes the truth because it justifies an action already performed. High praise to The Themantics Groups inaugural production, not only for the execution, but for the choice of a classic play that still resonates today.
New York, April 2, 2004 - Alison Solomon