by Mark G. Auerbach
A rather obscure 1922 play by an infrequently-produced Italian playwright, is reborn at Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Theatre. Luigi Pirandello’s Naked is so incredibly spot-on and relevant, in light of the realtime theatre going on in Washington DC these last few weeks. How could producer Kate Maguire or director Eric Hill have known, when Naked was added to BTG’s 90th season roster some months ago, that Naked and the Kavanaugh Hearings would both converge in our mindsets?
Luigi Pirandello, a prolific Italian playwright, novelist, and writer, and recipient of a Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote Naked six years before the Berkshire Theatre Festival made its debut. Pirandello was better known to American audiences for his Six Characters in Search of an Author. Juliette Binoche starred in a London revival of Naked in 1998; two years later, John Rando, known to area audiences for his staging of On The Town and this season’s The Royal Family of Broadway at Barrington Stage, helmed a New York production of Naked with Mina Sorvino.
At the Unicorn, it’s Tara Franklin center stage, surrounded by some of Berkshire Theatre Group’s mot accomplished veterans. Franklin plays Ersilia, a young woman in crisis. Fired from her job as a governess, when a child in her care is involved in a terrible accident, and jilted by her lover, who has chosen his fiancee over her, Ersilia, at wit’s end, is taken in by a renowned fiction writer. after she attempt suicide. A reporter covers her story, and she becomes an instant celebrity, questioned by her author patron, his housekeeper, the reporter, her ex-lover, and her ex-employers. As each character seeks out their truth, lies are exposed, cover-ups, alibis, and deceptions revealed.
Director Eric Hill, a mainstay in Berkshire Theatre Group’s history, works with a balanced script adaptation by Nicholas Wright, and a superb creative team. Randall Parsons’ purposely drab brown set, brings out the colors in Yoshi Tanokura’s colorful costumes. Matthew R. Adelson’s palette of lighting gives the set o drawing rooms a sun-kissed Roman glow, while J Hagenbuckle’s music and sound design give hints of the frenetic Roman streets below.
It’s the performances that give Naked its energy. Tara Franklin is riveting to watch, as she thoughtfully merges movement, gesture, and undercurrent to make Ersilia the center of focus in every scene and line. Rocco Sisto as her patron is a powerhouse, and James Barry is terrific as the lover who jilts her, but wants her back. Jeffrey Doornbos, the only actor in Hill’s cast to be making a BTG debut, is solid as Ersilia’s former employer.
Eric Hill, always the solid director, has showcased the best actors seen on Berkshire Theatre Group stages in recent years, and a fine group o designers. Together, they make Naked a richly satisfying theatre experience. Naked is an indelible way to end a remarkable 90th anniversary season. Congratulations to all involved in such a fine, satisfying season.
The Berkshire Theatre Group presents Naked by Luigi Pirandello in a new version by Nicholas Wright.. Directed by Eric Hill..Scenic design by Randall Parsons. Costume design byYoshi Tanokura. Lighting deign by Matthew E. Adelson. Sound design and music by J Hagenbuckle.. Cast: David Adkins, Haley Aguero, James Barry, Jeffrey Doornbos, Tara Franklin, Barbara Sims and Rocco Sisto Through October 28. The Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Theatre..Stockbridge, MA. For tickets: 413-997-4444 or www.berkshiretheatregroup.org.
Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio. Mark produces and hosts ArtsBeat Radio on 89.5fm/WSKB Radio.