Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

"He who lives, while he is living, does not see himself live," wrote Luigi Pirandello. "If one can see his own life, it is a sign he is no longer living it."

People want to define themselves, he adds, to give their lives form and structure. But "to define is to kill." Those who see through the forms imposed on them, he says, are truly free.

When he began writing, Pirandello vowed never to pen a play. They merely illustrate something larger and "diminish and spoil" what they represent.

Everything's locked in a form - acts and scenes and moments - and predetermined. But what if the characters burned the script, banished scenery, and improvised their lives? If they could "free the stage from the eternal pose," the true story would emerge.

Tonight is about a Neapolitan family who come to Sicily and offend the locals with their lively manners. Sternest of the latter, Rico Verri, falls in love with Mommina. But he's so jealous of her previous life he locks her in a room (a metaphor for Pirandello's cage of form), and she wastes away.

Although a director, Doctor Hinkfuss, promises to do away with the author and his text, he grafts a new form onto the story, and the characters finally rebel.

The tactic's the opposite of Brecht. Instead of exposing theatrical illusions, the characters in Tonight punch through them to a deeper reality.

In theory. Tonight premiered in 1930, as part of Pirandello's trilogy of plays about theater. Today's audiences, conditioned by decades of Brecht, know that even the improvisations have been rehearsed. And the "reality" - of actors interrupting a scene or the director shouting orders - is yet another illusion.

Tonight is rarely performed and, because it's so quirky, has never had a good track record. Some speeches do go on, and the device of characters wanting to play themselves takes its sweet time.

UCSD's production is slow to start. The invasion of the characters, dressed like refugees with suitcases, and the Doctor's long disquisitions make for squirms in seats and iPhones blinking on. The acting in the beginning, which should feel spontaneous, even radically so, is the most mechanical - especially the badly timed, scripted shouts from the audience.

Gabor Tompa rushes in where most directors fear to tread (his Woyzeck at UCSD a few years back was excellent). Some scenes verge on falling apart, others lock into rigid form, then flip into smoothly flowing sections, as if happening "live."

He thrives on the interplay among the various levels. The frequent interruptions annoy so much they force the audience not only to improvise its role, but also to want the real story all the more.

The cast must perform mirror-like, shifting from acting to seeming to act, to not at all. Most pull it off. Two do much more.

The cuckolded Sampognetta is scheduled to die. The actor playing him, called Old Comic Actor, has so identified with the role that he can't: the mishmash he enters, with his guts falling out (literally), hasn't prepared the audience for a death scene. So he describes how he would have done it with such feeling that the actors weep.

But who, at this point, are they? The story's characters? The actors in the story playing them? UCSD's? All lines blur in the presence of William Hodgson/Old Comic Actor/Sampognetta's hilarious and deeply moving plight.

Katherine McGehee concludes the evening with a long, aria-like scene. She plays "Leading Actress," who is playing Mommina. Gray-haired, gaunt as Samuel Beckett, she's been locked in a room with her children for four years. She recalls the glory of the theater and begins to sing, with a near-operatic voice, Il Trovatore. The strain takes her life.

Is McGehee acting? Improvising the scene? Is she scripted, rehearsed? Who cares! Her combination of hyper-illumined reverie and agonized entrapment break through all the "theatrical" contraptions and counterpoints and reach that place, Pirandello promised, where she "lets loose" the life within her.


Mandell Weiss Theatre, UCSD, playing through March 2.

More like this:

Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close