The haunting atmosphere of In Search Of Mrs. Pirandello hits you the moment you step foot into the theatre. The set is full and encompasses the entire space yet the lighting and colours of the room create a sparse feeling. Exploring themes of self-identity, mental illness and jealousy this show shines light on the muse of famous Italian author Luigi Pirandello’s wife Antonietta Portulano, who has been relegated to a footnote in the history books.
The show follows an unidentified character, known only as Searcher, who scours historical sites and archives trying to find anything and everything she can about Antonietta, a woman supposedly driven mad by jealousy and then institutionalized where she spends the last 40 years of her life before passing. This story unfolds its secrets and mysteries of the late departed Antonietta through flashback scenes that follow the young woman and her possibly villainous husband.
I hate to admit ignorance but I am not well versed in Pirandello’s body of work, yet the show works on a level that not only piqued my interest in Pirandello but also kept me engaged from beginning to end trying to figure out who, if anyone, was truly slipping into realms of madness.
The play is beautifully haunted by one of the most intense figures I have seen on stage in a long time, the ghost of Antonietta, played wonderfully by Nadia Verucci, who helps guide the audience and the Searcher on a quest towards self-actualization. In fact, the cast was perhaps one of the strongest Fringe show casts I have seen in a very long time. The characters were all deep and though provoking. Writer Michaela Di Cesare does an amazing job at adding so many complex levels to each of her beloved characters.
One of the biggest highlights of this show is that it takes place all around the audience. Every movement is deliberate, every shadow appears for a reason, and every word is deliberate and full of intent. The carefully crafted monologues denote how serious this search for Mrs. Pirandello truly is, yet a handful of scenes scattered throughout the show provide a light and playful side to counter some of the heaviness balancing it out perfectly.
One of the best things about this play is how it isn’t linear yet the show still flows smoothly. Every so often a scene would feel a little rushed, however, that could play into the fact that this show was meant to be longer than a 60 minute Fringe show and with so much content to explore things can appear rushed if the wrong thing is cut out or sped up.
Overall this show is spectacular. It’s delightfully engaging and thought provoking from beginning to end.
Simon’s 2 Cents: In Search of Mrs. Pirandello was confusing at the beginning, but had excellent actors who utilized the stage to the max to elevate this show to a higher plain.