Kelsey is a Chicago based producer, actor, writer, critic, and mixologist. An alum of Black Box Acting’s ACADEMY Program, Kelsey curates “The Newness,” a monthly salon of new work. They also work closely with Trans Voices Cabaret Chicago as well as Chicago Theatre Access Auditions. Follow them on Insta! @playsandpours, @kelseylooks
Pictured: Ambrose Cappuccio and Tiffany Bedwell. Photo by Chris Popio.
By Kelsey McGrath
NAKED, originally written by Luigi Pirandello in 1922, is known for its pages of dialogue and a lack of driving action. After governess Ersilia attempts suicide, her story and her past become the talk of the town. A novelist with questionable intentions takes her in to help her heal and two other men from her past resurface. All have combatting versions of Ersilia’s truth and what really drove her to her attempt. The three worry her story into the ground, creating tension and pressure on Ersilia. This becomes too much and she takes her own life.
A 1977 New York Times review describes the show: “Pirandello aimed to show the kind of myths men create to organize their lives, to give them coherence and meaning and then to show what an unhappy destiny it is that condemns mankind to such self‐deception.”
NAKED insists on telling Ersilia’s story from the perspectives of the men that surround her. The line between victim and perpetrator is diminished and she is stripped of her own reality. In the age of #metoo and #whyididntreportit, the last thing we need is a play about a woman being gaslit from the perspective of the men who did it.
While NAKED has the capacity to be a riveting drama, these pages and pages can be repetitious and dull. The overindulgent acting of this ensemble makes it difficult to endure. NAKED demands actors be invested in each other and the given circumstances. Such was not the case with TrapDoor’s production, with the exception of Manuela Rentea, who plays Onoria with an honesty and gusto that shines.
NAKED’s design team deserves accolades, however.. Scenic, sound, lighting, and costumes, Nicholas James Schwartz, Evan Forbes, David Goodman-Edberg, and Rachel M. Sypniewski, have created a cohesive, beautiful, and complex world.
Let’s not produce plays that depict the gaslighting women, unless they provide some new revelatory condemnation. Let’s not produce plays that give men the power and permission to demand their own agendas, at any woman’s expense. Let’s not produce plays where men tell women what they’re supposed to think or feel. Let’s not produce plays that diminish a woman’s agency to death.