BWW Review: The Rumors Are True: Theatre9/12's YOU ARE RIGHT, IF YOU THINK Is Delightful

BWW Review: The Rumors Are True: Theatre9/12's YOU ARE RIGHT, IF YOU THINK Is Delightful
Benjamin Nickols, Michael Oaks, Susan Echols-Orton, Meredith Binder, and Eric Smiley in
You Are Right, If You Think
Photo credit: Michael Brunk, NWLens

Luigi Pirandello's 1917 "Così è (se vi pare)", or "You Are Right, If You Think", playfully toys with subjectivity as one gossipy family tries to get at the truth. Theatre9/12 presents a delightful and streamlined adaptation of "You Are Right, If You Think", now performing at the Trinity Episcopal Church, that packs a punch in a humble environment. Charles Waxberg's adaptation of this gossipy romp is pure, classic fun.

Grace (Lisa Carswell) and her daughter Clara (Zandi Carlson) are already in a huff. There's something off about Grace's husband's newest employee, Mr. Ponzi (Eric Smiley). Nobody has seen his wife, and they find it odd that his mother-in-law, Mrs. Skellton (Mary Murfin-Bayley), lives so far away from her daughter and son-in-law. All Clara and Grace know is that the Ponzis and Mrs. Skellton escaped to this new, quiet village after a natural disaster destroyed their home.

Soon, Grace's husband Frank (Michael Ramquist) gets involved, and his assistant (Benjamin Nickols), and his assistant's secretary (Meredith Binder), and his secretary's sister (Susan Echols-Orton). They're all a-twitter about these mysterious out-of-towners, but Mrs. Skellton does not take long to make her grand entrance and set the record straight. She keeps away from her daughter and son-in-law because the two are so obsessively in love with each other that she wants to give them space to be alone. It's not an airtight explanation, and the group senses that and pounces on every fishy detail.

Cue Mr. Ponzi. He apologizes for his mother-in-law's behavior, and wishes to refute any outlandish claims she may have made because, ladies and gentlemen, Mrs. Skellton is insane. According to Mr. Ponzi, Mrs. Skellton went crazy when her daughter Julia, Mr. Ponzi's first wife, died. Mr. Ponzi is now married to his second wife, Jessica, but certifiable Mrs. Skellton believes that Jessica is Julia.

From here on out, Ponzi and Skellton alternate presenting the townspeople with explanations, generating more rumor and fewer real answers because Ponzi and Skellton's explanations get more and more ludicrous. Grace, Clara, Frank, Kleimer (Frank's assistant), Cini (Kleimer's secretary) and Nini (Cini's sister) bicker, take sides, and argue in circles.

But who is right? The show has a lot of fun not only providing moments where one could justify that any of the characters are right, but also reminding the audience that, in the grand scheme of things, the truth may not be obtainable. None of the characters have jobs, responsibilities, or concerns beyond the lives of the two mysterious tenants. Even the Mayor (Margaret Bicknell) takes time out of her busy schedule (well, I guess it's not that busy) to help solve the mystery of Mr. Ponzi and Mrs. Skellton. And for what? The only person who recognizes the frivolity of this scandal is Grace's brother, Leon (Michael Oaks), and he ends up being just as bad as the rest of them. He fuels the fire by playing devil's advocate, making outlandish claims about the fallacy of truth.

Of course, nobody takes him seriously because he's a dope-smoking hippie (in their opinion)-clad in pot plant patterned socks, a Hugh Heffner robe, and a giant peace-sign medallion around his neck.

There are consequences to rumor mongering! But thanks to Waxberg's delightful adaptation, it's hard not to give in and want the truth, even if it's at a cost to the characters' privacy. Leon playfully verbalizes these consequences, and still falls for them (as do we!). Oaks physicality gives puckish Leon a methodical air: he languidly sashays toward people, and sprawls across the divan like a cheeky cat. Oaks' Leon is, perhaps, the shrewdest weed-smoker in the western canon, and a delight to watch toy with people.

Physicality is such a key in this adaptation's success. It's an intimate theatre-in-the-round where all of the action takes place on the church floor. This is a talk heavy, action light play on paper, but these performers are constantly moving around. And not in a distracting or forced way: it just feels like everyone is wired with intrigue and simply cannot sit still. Being on the same level and so close to the action makes that hysterical energy even more palpable. And it makes it easier to keep track of the layers upon layers of rumors.

Which is why the modest set design was a wise choice. With only a piece of lounge furniture plopped in the center and a desk in the corner, there's nothing to distract from the narrative material. This cast has great collective chemistry, which makes for clean, balanced comedy. It's as though Waxberg wanted to nurture every opportunity to make it easier for audiences to keep track of the family's frenzied, conflicting interpretations of Mr. Ponzi's and Mrs. Skellton's complicated testimonies. Make it easier, and make it fun!

This is a show that feels like it really set out to entertain, and it does. For this thoughtful, humble production packed with joy and silliness, I give Theatre9/12's "You Are Right, If You Think" a tickled A-. You will have a good time at this show, and that's the truth.

Theatre9/12's "You Are Right, If You Think" performs at Trinity Episcopal Church now through February 25th, 2018. For tickets and information, visit them online at www.theatre912.com.

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