Good intentions do not a masterpiece make...
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 09/17/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Admittedly, there is some degree of interest in this production, which is supplied most obviously by Beverly Todd, the standout performer here, as the Stepdaughter. Watching her is, to be honest, a big relief. She's basically the only actor who gives her character some real fire or juice, or whatever one calls it.
Andy Griffith's character, the Father, who's the male lead in the production (not the play within the play, but the play itself), tries very very hard to be charming and charismatic and all that kind of thing, but he is clearly miscast. His hamminess is just too much to take and absolutely does not fit with his numerous ramblings in which he defends his own base actions. It just doesn't work; it's dated and makes the viewer cringe.
John Houseman as the Director plays John Houseman. Nothing new there. James Keach as the Son is James Keach. The dialogue, as is true in the penultimate scene in the Kubrick film "Eyes Wide Shut"--between Cruise and Sidney Pollack--is taken directly from the original work on which the play/film was based (in the case of the Kubrick film, Scnitzler's "Dream Story", written in the early 20th century), and is often stilted and wooden. When this is combined with actors who are not fluid (e.g., James Keach), the result borders on mind-numbing. For Six Characters, the original was written in 1918. In order to express dialogue that is this stiff, the production must have truly compelling actors, and aside from Ms. Todd, they're just not in evidence.
That being said, Julie Adams is fine in a limited role as the Mother. She does not have much to do, but she does do it well. The two stars are also for the concept of the production which is cleverly adapted by Paul Mayer, setting the action in a television studio in which the six characters appear through an electronic glitch on the studio's view monitors. This was a very good start. As well, the initial presence and presentation of the characters was interesting; the viewer is caught up in the obvious puzzle of what they are doing there.
However, the combination of repeated over the top babble by Griffith, wooden dialogue, and only fair acting (barring noted exceptions) render this production far less than it could and should have been.
It would be interesting to see this redone today with a different cast. Personal choices for casting, given the unique nature of the play, would include David Warner as the Father, James Spader as the Son, Meryl Streep as the Mother, Jasmine Guy as the Stepdaughter, and Michael Caine as the Director.
Pirandello's masterpiece does well as a Television Drama
Michael Ziegler | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania United States | 04/16/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This was a famous (and somewhat erudite) stage play meant for 1920's audiences that was a landmark work from the "Theatre of The Absurd". This DVD presents a very unusual but great version of this play, changing the situation from a stage to a Hollywood Television studio where actors are gathered to perform a rehersal. Suddenly the professionals are interrupted by six characters who claim that they are part of a work of an author who never completed their story and are seeking to have their much more interesting drama performed. (We never know whether they really exist at all) The director, (John Houseman) listens to a very convincing arguement from "The Father" (Andy Griffith)who presents his case as to why their "play" must be done and incredibly they dominate the action from this point. There are some real surprises here! Good direction by Stacey Keach. An appearance by his son James Keach as "The Son". A unique turn in making part of the drama involve interracial romance (a major step in 1976) and perhaps the biggest stunner of all, Andy Griffith as "The Father" proves that he is more than just a simple country bumpkin sheriff in a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Of course everyone gives away the era in which this was made in dress and hairstyles (1976) but it is still an unusual and intelligent adaptation of the classic absurdist play that is worth your time and investment."
Exploring the various levels of illusion and reality
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 09/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Luigi Pirandello's 1921 play "Six Characters in Search of an Author" ("Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore") has the deserved reputation of being the first existentialist drama and having a profound effect on later playwrights, especially those practitioners of the Theater of the Absurd such as Samuel Beckett ("Waiting for Godot"), Eugene Ionesco ("Rhinoceros"), and Jean Genet ("The Maids"). This 1976 production preserved as part of the Broadway Theater Archive series is directed by Stacy Keach and adapted by Paul Avila Mayer, who updates the work to be set in a television studio instead of a theater.
A show is being videotaped when it is interrupted by the sudden appearance of six people. The man whom we come to call simply the father (Andy Griffith) informs the television director (John Houseman) that he has an unfinished drama that needs to be performed and they only need an author to complete it. The father insists that they are not real people but characters, and the director and his cast can only laugh at the idea. But then they become intrigued by the bits and pieces of the story the six characters have to tell.
The father was once married to a peasant woman and had a son by her, but forced her to leave and live with another man. From afar he has watched her new family grow up. The widowed mother (Julie Adams) is a very emotional woman who has just lost her lover and is the only one of the six who appears to be unaware that she is only a character. The outspoken step-daughter (Beverly Todd), who was almost seduced by the father while working as a prostitute, is anxious to play out the scenes so that she can humiliate the father. The son (James Keach), an aloof young man who hates his mother for having abandoned him as a child, wants to leave the studio but finds he cannot go until his scene is finally played out. The boy (H.B. Barnum III) says nothing, because he will die by shooting himself at the end of the play. The child (Claire Touchstone) is also silent because she dies at the end in a fountain.
Almost all of the characters in the play are known by their roles rather than their names, such as the Leading Man (Laurence Hugo) and the Second Female Lead (Irene Robinson). One of the few characters in the drama who has a name is Madame Pace, who is in charge of the dress shop that also serves as a brothel where the step-daughter works. It is perhaps this formality that serves to distance us from the production more than the strangeness of the action or the aged of the words, even though they are adapted to the modern ear. Griffith does a good job, but it is hard to look at the actor and not think that there is a twinkle in the eyes and a smile just behind the lips (my fault, not his probably). Keach as the son and Todd as the daughter bring the most passion to their roles, but Houseman is the one who holds the entire thing together, giving credence to the idea that there is a story here to be told. But the ultimate point is that the tradition of reality in the theater no longer holds true.
The radical idea here is that there is an immutability of reality for these six characters. Because they are forms, forced into performing the actions for which they were imagined, there is an inherent conflict with life. This is why the son wants to escape but cannot leave the studio and must play his role, as must the Mother and the rest of the characters. This is just as true of all the other characters besides the six, although the others are less inclined to see the truth, or at least the reality, of their own situation until the end, when the final scene of the drama seeks to dissolve the "stage" reality completely. Where Pirandello succeeds in the end is in having it both ways, for we can interpret what we have seen as being reality or as being acting. Either way, you are left to the same conclusion.