Doctor Hinkfuss, the stage manager (director) of an improvised dramatic presentation. Dwarfish in size yet gigantic in his assumed authority, Hinkfuss comes on stage to address the audience at the opening of the play, declaring himself, rather than the unidentified author of the play, fully responsible for the evening’s performance. Instead of presenting the usual fixed, unmoving drama, he will present a living, changing theater as vital and unpredictable as life itself. Throughout the production, he interrupts scenes with comments of approval or disgust; he maneuvers light and set pieces to create the ambience he desires with no regard for the actors’ needs or responses. At every opportunity, he heedlessly prattles on with his philosophy of the aesthetics of the theater, asserting the superiority of improvisation and spontaneity over fixed dialogue for the creation of the essential fluidity and passion of life on the stage. He asserts that, like life, improvisational theater allows for the unforeseen circumstances that may thwart the best-planned organization of events. Hinkfuss presents to the minds of the audience the Pirandellian conundrum: whether it is life that shapes and defines theater or theater that gives the shape of truth to life.
Leading Man, who plays the part of Rico Verri, a young Sicilian aviation officer, and speaks also as himself, Mr. . . ., the leading male performer of the troupe. He testily refuses to be introduced to the audience before the performance of the play-within-the-play, protesting that he must be nonexistent for the audience as anyone but his character part; he must live only as the character Verri for the time he is on stage. He is a temperamental and angry young man, both in himself and as the character he plays, frequently stepping out of his part to berate the stage manager or other actors in the same manner that his character...
(The entire section is 797 words.)