"Six Characters": Delights of the details

by Minji Kim

The smallest ways of addressing the plot and themes of a play can offer the most striking elements of a production. This weekend’s Loeb Ex performance of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, based on a translation by Brandon Ortiz ’12, not only showed a contemporary interpretation of the modern Italian classic, but also highlighted the subtle arts of makeup and costume design.

Six Characters is intense drama, but for me the most visually vivid moment occurs when the family of Characters barges into the Actors’ rehearsal at the beginning of the play. The physical intrusion itself interrupts the scene, but the clash between the Characters and Actors, cleverly clad in hot pinks and greens to sharply contrast their somber counterparts, introduces an aesthetic showdown. As if they had indeed emerged from the ink of a potential script, the Characters sport pale and ghostly complexions, emphasized by their severe black outfits, which likens them to a less jovial version of the Addams family.

Thanks to the intimate size of the Loeb Ex, the Characters’ makeup, an even subtler costume detail is clearly visible. In contrast to the more natural makeup of the Actors, the caked foundation and powder on the Characters’ faces clearly differentiated the two parties. The masks of heavy makeup not only emphasizes the infinity of the Characters’ depression and suffering, but also makes reference to the continuing theme of the play: that we, as human beings, cannot ever understand one another underneath the layers of personas that we think we create for ourselves.

I am continuously amazed by the thoroughness of theater crews in attending to the tiniest elements of presenting a story on stage. In observing the costume and makeup used in Six Characters in Search of an Author, I am reminded of how the small details in theater, or any other work of art for that matter, often contribute greatly to the whole production and illumine larger themes. One just needs to look closely.

[Caption: "Six Characters in Search of an Author"]

[Caption: Note the contrast in costume colors between the Characters and Actors]