Those who turn to Pirandello for a heavy dose of metaphysics needn’t bother with Naked. The Italian title—Vestire gli Ignudi (To Clothe the Naked) —explains the story best: A dismissed au pair, whose life has been unraveled by the death of the child in her care, desperately seeks a new identity to fill the void in her life, hoping to find it in the fantasies of the various men who have become infatuated with her. It’s a mature work, trading in Pirandello’s usual abstract discourse for concrete pathos. Unfortunately, director Blake Lawrence has approached this later drama with the same cold rationality typically reserved for Pirandello’s earlier efforts. Each character is rendered as little more than an archetype: Timothy Warmen assumes a heady demeanor for the aging writer Ludovico, who sees in Ersilia (a lost Margaret Nichols) the classic tale of the fallen woman, while Peter Macklin is embarrassingly buoyant as the young lady’s lover. As a result, the characters act past each other, each seemingly in search of a different author, and the explosive confrontations on which the drama depends fall flat. Ersilia’s struggle for identity here becomes an exercise in metatheatrical gamesmanship, robbing the play of its emotional concerns and leaving behind a melodramatic muddle.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 9, 2004