Friday, May 6, 2011

Quick Hit Theater Review: Italian American Reconciliation -- Long Wharf

Lisa Birnbaum and John Procaccino. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Italian American Reconciliation
Long Wharf Theatre
By John Patrick Shanley
Directed by Eric Ting


Summary:
Hughey Buonfigliano (Mike Crane) breaks up with the perfect girl, Teresa (Stephanie Dimaggio), to try to reconcile with his ex-wife, Janice (Lisa Birnbaum) even though she shot his dog and tried to kill him before their mariiage finally ended. He just has to get her back, though, and asks longtime pal Aldo Scalicki (John Procaccino) to help by talking the idea up to the hostile Teresa who used to enjoy playing games where Aldo would die when they were kids. Aldo doesn't think a reconciliation would be in the best interest of his friend, so he comes up with a plan of his own: to seduce Janice and turn her attention away from Hughey so he will be free to settle down with the terrific Teresa. Giving advice and some comic relief is Aunt May (Socorro Santiago).


Highlights:
Scott Bradey's set festively drapes the thrust in the aftermath of a club wedding reception. White lights and gossamer frame the room set with tables and leftover dinnerware and wedding cake where Aldo sips wine and chats up the audience before the formal play begins. Santiago is quite funny as the nononsense waitress caught in the middle of the romantic goings-on and Burnbaum gives some humor and depth to the hurting woman who reacts by hurting others. A send-up of Nessun Dorma from Tourandot is nicely done by the creative designers (Linda Cho, costumes; Russell Champa, lighting, Sarah Pickett, sound).


Lowlights:
The first act is incredibly slow moving. The play reads like a rough draft and isn't up to the level we expect from Shanley, who won the 1987 Academy Award for his screenplay of "Moonstruck" and the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony for Doubt. That first act, in particular, before Janice arrives on the scene, needs some editing. Some of the staging also is confusing-- Teresa, for example, climbs a ladder where we're supposed to believe she's in her bedroom, talking to Aldo from the window, but all the while she is taking down wedding decorations in the hall. Aldo walks back and forth and just about wears a rut in the dance floor. for no apparent reason other than to put some action in the stagnant scene. We finally get a glimpse of Shanley's real ability when Janice reveals some of the motivation behind her actions, but it's too long in coming.

More information:
Long Wharf Theatre, through its production of Italian American Reconciliation, wants to celebrate New Haven’s rich cultural history as a nexus of the Italian American experience by hearing stories and collecting photos of that experience for display on the set and the lobby during the run of the show. Hi-res family photos can be e-mailed to italianamerican@longwharf.org..

The show wraps up the season with a run through May 22 at Long Wharf, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven. Tickets are $40-$70 and are available at 203-787-4282 or at www.longwharf.org.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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