Staged at La Mama’s Ellen Stewart Theatre, Six Characters (a family album) is woefully ambitious. Using Pirandello as a jumping off point, Pirandello himself appears searching for answers as anthropologist Margaret Mead guides the audience on the intricacies of family from Ancient Greece to today. Finding inspiration from Pinocchio, Oedipus, “An American Family” and the Flint water crisis, Theodora Skipitares, who serves as conceiver, designer, and director, throws all of her eggs in a single basket to create a whimsical hodgepodge that looks fascinating. But looks can be deceiving. Using colossal puppets, lustrous orbs of light, and old-fashioned stagecraft, Six Characters was an interesting exploration of family with lackluster execution. Skipitares’ variations on family were singularly tied through the oddities of family. From a man hoping for a son through a little wooden boy to an uncouth romance between mother and son to America’s first reality TV family, Six Characters explored the timelessness of the ever-changing appearance of family. But where Skipitares took a sharp turn was the final movement set in present day. Skipitares’ discussion on the Flint water crisis had family at its core but it didn’t have the same feeling as the others. To end the evening with it felt emotionally manipulative. Compared to the rest of Six Characters, textually, it did not mesh.
|photo by Theo Cote|
The performers of Six Characters (a family album) did a fine job creating Skipitares’ families but in the end, Six Characters (a family album) is a visiceral experience. While it may not have offered anything new, it solidified what we already knew. The importance of family.