Absurdism’s King of Comedy, Luigi Pirandello, adapted a 1915 short story he wrote titled “Signora Frola and Signor Ponza, Her Son-in-Law” into a play two years later. Right You Are (If You Think Are) was presented in dramatic form as a “A Parable in Three Acts.” As in any instructive parable, the characterization is put fully into the service of delivering the lesson and thus creates mysteries about motivation that remain unresolved by the conclusion.
Unlike traditional parables however, this one belongs fully within the ideological construct of its Absurdist genre. To wit: the exact moral instruction it is intended to demonstrate through analogy remains ambiguously open to interpretation. Thus, in true Absurdist fashion, Right are You (If You Think You Are) reverses the traditional mechanics of telling a parable: the listener becomes an active participant charge with deciding what symbolic lesson delivered by the narrative is individually applicable to real life.
The world premiere of Right You Are (If You Think You Are) took place at Milan’s Teatro Olimpia on June 18, 1917. A few years before hitting it big Hollywood, a relatively unknown actor named Edward G. Robinson took on the role of Ponza in the first New York production of the play in 1927. One of the most memorable revivals of this play in which gossip, accusations, suspicion and the elusive nature of truth is the engine driving the story took place during the 1950’s at the height of McCarthyism, the Red Scare and the Hollywood communist witch hunt.