LA GRANDE MAGIE, a play by Eduardo de Filippo, directed by Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, is the work of an author with deeply rooted social convictions. It is not necessary to be a cryptologist to decipher Filippo’s meaning in his play that being of free will, choice, and belief. The Great Magic (English title) was written in 1948 after more than twenty years of fascist rule. Filippo comments that he was finally able to change his manner of writing. Liberated, from the strictures of an extreme right wing political domination and censorship, he was finally able to voice his humanist soul in an allegorical theatrical presentation, wrapped in the cloak of a magical comedy.
Demarcy-Mota’s direction is deft and masterful, enacted by the acting company of the Théâtre de la Ville, composed of actors (for the most part) of long-standing affiliation with his direction and directorial vision.
Given, brilliant writing, excellent staging, and direction: the questions remain, Do we care? Is the subject matter relevant today? Are we convinced by the actors and the director’s realization of Filippo’s free form poetic prose? These are questions that each audience must answer for themselves.
Tuesday’s performance gave the impression of a certain fatigue, on the part of the actors. The magic was less than magical. Magic should be magical, not predictable, less it be judged inept and laughable, which it was not. Missing was the buffoonery, and lightness needed to carry the audience off into another world of imagination.
The jilted wife’s choice of, to open or not to open, the suitcase, wherein her husband has been magically placed, is the center piece of the play’s plot and meaning. Placed in the context of a seaside resort hotel, where the elegant world-weary guests seek amusement, the magician, played by Serge Maggiani, purports to have made the philandering husband, appear, and reappear in the suitcase. He attempts to convince the wife that her husband is really in a tiny suitcase. She must make the choice of whether or not to open the suitcase. According to the magician, if she opens the suitcase and her husband is not there, then he will never reappear! If she doesn’t open the suitcase, then there will be always the possibility that he is really there and will someday make his magical reappearance.
Filippo’s play: extrapolated into today’s real world, the question of free will and choice, maintains its relevancy.
Yet to be seen is further efforts on the part of the actors to make the caring by the audience real.