Artun Kircali stars as the real-life playwright behind 'A Play by Franco Vitella.' (Chuk Nowak)
Art imitates the playwright’s life in the new original work “A Play by Franco Vitella,” presented by Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company through Feb. 22.
While the title may not seem to give away much about the play’s focus, local playwright Franco Vitella says it is what it is.
“Franco Vitella is a character in the play, and he’s writing the play,” says Vitella, the real-life man. “The actors are playing it, and it’s about them trying to get to the end of this play.”
Created to be an exploration of the theater experience, “A Play” takes Franco the character on a journey to overcome writer’s block, to put on a play with six actors — three of whom play themselves. Which is, in essence, how the production actually came to be, Vitella reveals.
“I sat down writing an entirely different play,” says the Oakland University graduate. “Realizing I didn’t like the direction, and what to do next, and going from play to play to play, and then making it about the actors trying to do the same thing.”
Artun Kircali, who portrays Franco Vitella in “A Play,” calls the production funny, touching and at times a bit sad.
“My character is kind of an embodiment of artistic suffering,” the actor says. “Full of issues with battling self-esteem and artistic vision and integrity at some points.”
Vitella says it is a bit strange watching a fictionalized version of himself on stage. “It’s taking small nuances that I have and magnifying them times 100.”
A little exhausting, yet freeing, is how Kircali describes the experience. “It’s like a man going mad on stage,” he laughs. “It feels like I have a free gym membership. Every day I just leave in a puddle of sweat.”
Perhaps Kircali’s exhaustion has something to do with director Jonathan Davidson, who was so inspired he found it difficult to sit down during rehearsals, he says.
“I’m jumping around the theater, watching the actors work,” Davidson adds. “To gather this group and sort of unleash them on the script, it’s just been an absolute pleasure. And I can just slam them around and they take that abuse and they love it. Or at least they pretend to.”
One of the pleasures of working on an original play, Davidson says, is “unless you’re one of the actors, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“A Play by Franco Vitella” also explores the concept of the audience attending the play, which Vitella believes is a “communal” experience.
“Theater is different from watching a movie where those people aren’t with you in the same room while they’re performing,” he says. “You’re watching a screen and somewhat separated by it.
“Where with theater, you’re going to see a piece of fiction, and you’re watching people not be themselves, and you’re doing it together with an audience. And at the Abreact, where the play is being performed, it’s such a small, intimate setting where you’re barely feet away from the actors.”
With that in mind, audiences can expect to be more than spectators; they’ll be part of “A Play.”
'A Play by Franco Vitella'
8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Feb. 22; 3 p.m. Feb. 16
Magenta Giraffe Theatre Co.
Abreact Performance Space
1301 W. Lafayette, #113, Detroit
Tickets $15-$18; During the production’s run, Magenta Giraffe serves as the collection site for Mittens for Detroit,
a nonprofit founded by actress
Erin Cummings (“Detroit 1-8-7”) that distributes new or unused gloves and mittens to Detroit children and adults. Theatergoers are asked to bring new, unused mittens and gloves to the production. The greatest need is for men’s gloves.
Andrea Daniel is a freelance reporter.