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Tonight We Improvise


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A: Luigi Pirandello Pf: 1930, Königsberg Pb: 1930 Tr: 1932 G: Drama in 3 acts; Italian prose S: A theatre and a Sicilian town, 1920s C: 9m, 3fNoises are heard backstage, and suddenly the director Doctor Hinkfuss appears in the auditorium. With interruptions from the audience, he announces the adaptation of a short story by Pirandello. After philosophizing on the permanence of art compared with the flux of reality, he introduces the Sicilian setting and characters. The leading lady Signora Ignazia, mother to four pretty daughters, scandalizes the locals by throwing wild parties, to which airmen are invited. Her long-suffering husband consoles himself with a lugubrious singer. The leading man playing one of the airmen, Rico Verri, declares that he will improvise tonight, speaking words that spring spontaneously from the character he is to play. After the family and escorts have pushed their way into the audience to watch a film, Hinkfuss offers the spectators the choice between watching actors continuing the play in the foyer or observing the scene changes on stage. At another party the father insists that he cannot die according to the script, whereupon he drops dead. By now the actors are totally identified with their characters and dismiss the restricting influence of Hinkfuss. The leading lady is now made up to represent her eldest daughter, who gets married to Verri. Violently jealous, Verri drives her to her death as she sings from Il trovatore. Hinkfuss reappears and congratulates everyone on their performances, due largely, he claims, to his direction.

A: Luigi Pirandello Pf: 1930, Königsberg Pb: 1930 Tr: 1932 G: Drama in 3 acts; Italian prose S: A theatre and a Sicilian town, 1920s C: 9m, 3f

This is a remarkable example of postmodernist deconstruction, some half a century before this phrase became current. Sometimes unhappily verbose, the play is nevertheless an extraordinary exploration of the relationship between art and reality and of the nature of the theatrical process, including action offstage and the original idea of actors watching a film, now a cliché of contemporary performance.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Luigi Pirandello (1867—1936) Italian dramatist and novelist


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