Reviewed by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
I winced as they slightly butchered the language and just a little bit of the culture of my great grandfather throughout each mild cliché and lagging scene…and yet somehow, something about it still felt familiar. Maybe it was the slow pace after all or how the family embraced each other in the laughing, the teasing, even in the arguing. I understood it completely. It felt like home. But then I thought, these are not Sicilians. They are not actually my people. And in any case, everyone else just thinks that we’re all boiled into one melting pot of spaghetti eating, loud mouthed, over-the-top, nonsensicals, easily dismissed, and made sport of, but for mafioso films, Michelangelo and ancient Roman history. So it doesn’t really matter. Of course it does! …what was I thinking.
One bona fide Italian in a production pulling along a host of actors playing Italian does not necessarily, even with the best of intentions and rehearsals make a real life … non è così.
In, “Luigi”, when the patriarch of an Italian family is in his last days, relatives gather in Tuscany for a reunion to celebrate life, love and to rediscover the bonds that hold them together.
It began promising, but the bloom quickly faded with each passing scene in a menage of unending moments that arrived at a precipice of truth, but never quite gave way to the essentiality of the story. In and of itself it is a gentle tale, beautiful, sweet and heart-warming. A tale so full of life attached to the inevitability of death where writer Louise Munson attempts to gather the fragrant and fully blossomed moments inside vivid, spontaneous recollections that we actually remember as opposed to what is left, the decomposition of memory and of factual and emotional history. With and without us, life goes on. What we pass to the next person, the next generation however, is often precious in ways we may never know. How we remember for ourselves and for each other is what creates life in the present and hope for the future.
The trouble with this comedy/drama is that there are so many moments to distill; too many. And so the story creates an endless Summer that feels like a heatwave we want to end, instead of the sweet kiss of a deliciously warm breeze that unbearably rolls over the skin, making us long for the touch of it over and over.
The actors, some of whom are seasoned Broadway and television veterans, are uneven in delivery, dialog, cultural backgrounds that don’t quite stitch together and projection. But they do put in their best performances to be sure. Ultimately, though, the cast as a whole does not truly capture the “Italian.” The stage direction and pacing, unassisted by the small space, corrupted the fleeting intimacies and what should have been a more crisp evolution of time. Scene changes were awkward. There were just too many. And the story itself could be cut down and strung together more cohesively to evince the most special and evocative aspects. Unfortunately, what we crave to grasp here is exactly what we don’t get to hold onto — the sincere kinships and the deep, deep love between all the family members, especially between Luigi and his young American niece, Anna, who finds in her uncle, a relationship she has always longed to have.
An “assemblage” needs to happen with this production. It has a world of potential but has quite a way to go to fully reach it. During the run, it will hopefully pick up speed and emerge as a home-grown yet more universal drama.
Box Office reservations: http://www.inkwelltheater.com/ Theatre Information:
VS Theatre (a guest production) 5453 W. Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles, 90010
Appropriate for all ages
Cast: Nicola Bertram, Helen Duffy, Ryan Plourde, Erin McIntosh, Stephanie Sanchez, Gian Franco Tordi, Ray XifoDirected by Annie McVey Produced by Daniel Shoenman and Bonnie Hallman Written by Louise Munson
David Mauer (Set Design), Derrick McDaniel (Lighting Design), Daniel Shoenman (Sound Design), Stephen Rowan (Costume & Prop Design), Lisa Pantone (Casting Director), and Josephine Austin (Production Stage Manager)