EACH IN HIS OWN WAY, TinFish Theatre. “Life,” Thomas Hardy observed, “is a series of seemings.” In Luigi Pirandello’s 1924 comedy, the serial seemings come fast and furious, inside out and upside down. Dragan Torbica directs a solid revival of this absurdist version of a revenger’s tragedy: a beautiful but fickle actress inspires infidelity, suicide, and a challenge to a duel among the upper crust of an Italian town.
Since it’s Pirandello, of course the conflict breaks through the fourth wall and spills out into the lobby. Torbica’s cast of 17 bring a wink-and-a-nod gusto to the play’s shifting realities, which makes it easier to forgive their occasional lapses in comic timing and diction. Ben Huber makes a mostly impressive Chicago debut as philosopher-peacemaker Diego Cinci, sometimes recalling the insouciant John Tanner in Shaw’s Man and Superman, then adopting a mournful existentialist note reminiscent of Camus as he recalls watching a fly drown at his dying mother’s bedside. Mitchell Bisschop’s Francesco Savio is the epitome of outraged frat-boy morality, and Katy McDermott (stunning in Torbica’s shimmering frocks) gives the actress’s pouting self-indulgence and allegedly helpless passion considerable verve.
There are clunky notes here and there–some cast members seem lost in the thickets of Pirandello’s paradoxes. But overall this TinFish production works as a reminder that 20th-century theater owes a huge debt to the Sicilian Nobel laureate.