Chicago Theatre Review
The art of viewing art: The Hypocrites, ‘Six Characters’
By Devlyn Camp
On three stages surrounded by swiveling chairs, The Hypocrites, in their newest production, make an overwhelming and energizing attempt at explaining the intellectual creation and staging of a story. To the untrained eye, actors are men and women playing people by learning lines, wearing costumes and mocking physical gestures, but underneath is a mind churning away at executing the difficult art of storytelling (and imagine the effort a writer must put in, needing to understand all of the characters!). The untrained eye may not even completely follow the strand of puns, points, and debates in The Hypocrites’ production of Luigi Pirandello’s 6 Characters in Search of An Author. The non-theatre folk aren’t exactly in the Hypocrite’s demographic anyway, as the audience generally consists of actors off for the evening, those dang theater critics, and regular theatergoers. Viewers of the show are almost in that non-sarcastically, actually enjoyable script text analysis class in college, as the layered storytelling cuts and weaves drama and comedy among two starkly different stories almost seamlessly.
Opening on a late-starting put-in rehearsal for the touring cast of The Hypocrites’ recent production of Pirates of Penzance, delightful Laura McKenzie jabs at mockable annoying qualities in actors, playing a fictional version of her self. The “late start” to the rehearsal is rather believable. For a moment the audience flutters through their programs thinking they may have come to an open – and hilarious – rehearsal. During this rehearsal, six developed characters trapped in their own unstaged story intrude, asking the actors to present their play. The people are classic, dramatic horror story-style characters doomed forever in a moment’s tragedy.
The story then follows the 6 retelling their untold story as the Hypocrites try to act it out. While simultaneously engaging the audience in the story, the play also allows the viewer to step back and see it from the outside in: actors playing actors watching people play themselves as characters while trying to play those people’s characters… simultaneously maintaining an actual suspension of disbelief in the audience. The Hyprocrites make a great point for the paradox of theatre: There is a drastic difference between an actor onstage and a person offstage, and an actor’s onstage interpretation of those people as characters. The 6 characters become extremely agitated at the Hyprocrites for retelling their story with word-for-word dialogue and movement, while still relaying a different tone and tale. When a person becomes a character, and their story becomes the play, their actions’ intentions change in every storyteller and actors’ interpretation.
Remember when I said “the untrained eye may not even completely follow…”? The Hyprocrites very successfully execute this intricate and advanced pair intertwined of stories. Where one set of eyes might see a mess of people relaying lines, another set will see frantic and funny, methodically planned points on how to view art.
SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR
The Hypocrites at Chopin Theater
Through March 11
Tickets $28-36, available at the-hypocrites.com
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