During rehearsal for a touring production of Sean Graney’s Pirates of Penzance, six ashen figures appear in the Chopin Theatre’s basement lobby, looking for someone to put on their tragic story. They’ve chosen the right company to do it. The Hypocrites have made their reputation on breathing new life into old works, and Steve Moulds’s premiere adaptation of Luigi Pirandello’s 1921 metatheatrical work embraces the hip aesthetic, casual atmosphere and clever audience interaction the theater has employed for 15 years.
The lines between reality and fiction are beautifully blurred by director Halena Kays, who stages the production across three platforms that the audience follows in swivel chairs. Playing themselves, actors Brennan Buhl, Ryan Walters, Laura McKenzie and John Taflan sell the illusion of spontaneity, appearing as mystified as the audience when the characters appear. As they mold the characters’ story into a piece of theater, we peek into the adaptation process, beginning with trepidatious rehearsals that transform into a fully realized world.
Larry Garner and Stevi Baston provide intrigue as the Father and Stepdaughter, the characters’ spokespeople, using the stage for their personal catharses. Each of the characters is performed with a heightened theatricality that fits his or her uncompleted nature; they exist only within the two intense scenes they wish to see performed. As these moments are given form, the audience creates the connective tissue among them, becoming the author the characters were searching for all along.