Rutgers Theater Company presents "Absolutely! (Perhaps)" October 14–22

What to do when three strangers with an unusual living arrangement move into your small town? Greet them with suspicion and then pry into their private lives, of course. Rutgers Theater Company turns idle talk into twisted truths in Luigi Pirandello’s Absolutely! (Perhaps), running from Friday, October 14, through Saturday, October 22, 2016, at the Philip J. Levin Theater.

In a small Italian town, gossiping is the favored sport, and everyone is talking when Signor Ponza, his wife, and his mother-in-law, Signora Frola, move in. In an unconventional setup, the Ponzas live in a slum on the edge of town, while Signora Frola lives in the wealthiest district and is kept from seeing her daughter by her son-in-law, who allows communication only through passed notes.

All of this out-of-the-ordinary behavior leads to “the juiciest, most salacious, heart-pumping gossip that sends the town into a veritable feeding frenzy,” says Kathleen McNenny, director of the play and a teacher of mask work in the Theater Department.

Ponza claims that his sequestered wife is actually his second wife, as Signora Frola’s daughter died years ago. Ponza’s mother-in-law, he alleges, survives at the brink of insanity believing that her daughter is alive and still married to Ponza. Signora Frola claims it is Ponza who is crazy, and that her daughter is indeed alive and living in an asylum. Who is telling the truth?   

“We are ‘stuck in a purgatory of watching fantasy and reality dance together, and you can’t tell the difference,’” says McNenny, quoting Pirandello. “Our town becomes increasingly agitated to the point of constipation in their need to know every detail, spinning stories of lies and truth together until they no longer know what is real and what is fantasy.” 

McNenny describes Pirandello’s drama as a “delicious romp that keeps you guessing where it will go next.”

The play’s set and costumes will transport audiences to the vibrant world of the early 1950’s, but not before they pass through fun-house mirrors and into a “changed reality,” McNenny says.

And what about getting to the bottom of the story?

“I believe whatever audiences find or don’t find will be the truth, as they see it,” McNenny says. “Which is a very Pirandello way of saying your thoughts on the play are ABSOLUTELY right—maybe.” 

Absolutely! (Perhaps) runs from Friday, October 14, through Saturday, October 22, 2016, at the Philip J. Levin Theater. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. October 14–16 and 18–21, and at 2 and 7:30 p.m. October 22. Tickets are $25 for the general public, $20 for Rutgers alumni and employees and seniors, and only $15 for students with valid ID. The Philip J. Levin Theater is in the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center, 85 George Street (between Route 18 and Ryders Lane), on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. For more information about any Mason Gross event, visit www.masongross.rutgers.edu or call the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center ticket office at 848-932-7511.

This event is underwritten by the Leora M. Sies Theater Fund Foundation.

Photo by Cassie Neiss.

Posted October 2016