Right!, International Theater of Chicago, at Berger Park Cultural Center. George Jean Nathan characterized Pirandello’s early play Right You Are (If You Think You Are) as “written for intelligent blind men.” And this three-act exploration of existential relativism is indeed heavy on philosophy and light on spectacle. When the townsfolk in a small Italian village discover that their newest resident, Mr. Ponza, keeps his wife and mother-in-law locked up in separate apartments and won’t allow anyone to visit either, they’re overcome by a mania for explanation. Both Ponza and his mother-in-law appear repeatedly before the town’s highest-ranking gossips to offer contradictory explanations, founded on the other’s insanity, and to plead for privacy. As the inquiry heats up and the town’s peace is compromised, committed relativist Laudisi makes it clear that believing irreconcilable “truths” is the only way to ensure domestic tranquility.
Director Patrizia Acerra’s adaptation is actually a slightly edited new translation of the original. But her odd staging literally exemplifies Nathan’s assessment: she regularly seats the cast among the audience in the Berger mansion’s parlor, so there’s nothing to watch for long stretches of time. And though the softening of Pirandello’s farcical style to light comedy lowers the play’s stakes, its central observation–the variability of “truth”–comes more sharply and compellingly into focus as the evening progresses. The end result feels more like a parlor trick than a play, but the fault is more Pirandello’s than Acerra’s.