by Noah McCarthy
Students and faculty were treated to a performance of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author on March 5. The play was adapted by Pensacola State’s own Dr. Rodney Whatley and performed by the PSC Performing Arts Department students.
The play tells the harrowing, witty, and often morbid story of a family of six characters who come out of their abandoned and unfinished story into the real world in the midst of a theater group’s rehearsal of said story. There’s the contemplative and eerie Father, portrayed by C.J. Helt; the ever-mourning mother portrayed by Christina Gabriel; the alternatively vulnerable and raging Step-daughter portrayed by Romela Romero; the quiet but intense Son portrayed by Lucas Anderson; the looming, dark, and observant Boy played by Freya Dickson; and the Girl, ever-present at Mother’s side and played with wonderful interplay by Nadyne and Clara Golden.
The beating heart of this story pumps these questions; “what is identity? Who am I, and what does it mean to be? Is being fictional synonymous with being less than real?” These questions are asked implicitly and literally in the script, most often by the Father and the Stepdaughter as they navigate difficult dialogues about the impropriety of their relationship within their own story.
The constant questioning and directional interference from the characters as they attempt to prove their existence’s validity provokes heated clashes with the director as she tries to get on with her group’s rehearsal.
The actors and the characters then continuously engage in arguments about which of them is “the real one” and why it matters so much, even if, in the end, it is all “make believe”.
Ultimately, the story draws to a close with a shocking drowning, and then a suicide as the audience is, as are the actors and characters themselves, left to wonder within which reality these deaths occur. Was it fated to be the end of the story-within-a-story, or the story upon the stage we were all witness to? This uncertainty is a key feature of the play’s overall narrative and the final answer to the core questions listed above.
Veronica Lindholm, an actress in the play, said, “the play is wild. It’s fun but also dark, and it doesn’t lend itself to one particular tone which only adds to the intrigue.”
Maneuvering through clever dialogues with the aforementioned existentialist themes, the actors delivered an engrossing, witty, and very energetic commentary on, mainly, different realities.
From the bombastic and authoritative voice of Lindholm as the Director to the somber, desperate wails of Gabriel as the Mother, there was a full range of emotion on display, all provided by a dialed-in cast.
The highs and the lows of energy were ushered along by the hilarious and timely outbursts of Ashlynn Rawls’s Teen Actor, as well as the driving confidence provided by Kayla Philips as the Featured Actress, whose confrontational interplay with Romero’s Step-daughter was one of the many highlights of the evening.
This was the very first live, in-person production hosted at the Ashmore since the setting of pandemic measures a year ago.
“For this show, the audience was socially distanced and wore masks,” Lindholm said, “but other than that, it really didn’t feel too different.”
To fill that time, PSC has diligently experimented and found ways to stay engaged with students and the community via various virtual outlets, but the live theatre atmosphere was a welcome breath of air, masked and distanced, of course, to any who were in attendance.