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Theatre Review: Italian American Reconciliation at the Depot Theatre

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Italian American Reconciliation is the final play of the season at the Depot Theatre in Westport and plays through September 21. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at the opening night and has our review.

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Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

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I hesitate to use the cliché "laugh riot," so how about "giggle-fest"? John Patrick Shanley's play ITALIAN AMERICAN RECONCILIATION is certainly that. It's an early play first produced in 1988, a year after MOONSTRUCK, and features the same kind of wonderfully authentic Little Italy characters and vernacular. The plot's lopsided romantic geography has touches of both grand passion and lunacy.

Huey Bonfigliano wants to win back his shrewish former wife Janice, even though she shot his dog with a zip gun. As he says, "My life don't mean anything without huh (her)." He enlists the help of his best friend Aldo Scalicki who thinks Huey should stick with his new girl Teresa, while Aunt May scatters advice liberally.

This is a very balanced cast of good actors who all have the necessary flair for comedy. As the termagant Janice, described by Huey as "a vampire vulture monster fiend," Caroline Treadwell is frightening, flirtatious and thoroughly psychotic. Silva Mateosian is appealing as the "nice girl" Teresa, who nonetheless displays plenty of volatile Italian temperament.

Artistic Director Shami McCormick is terrific as Aunt May with her impeccable comic timing and genuine sympathetic advice for Aldo. But, she says, "Makes me wonder if all that stuff I remember is wisdom or just lint."

As the love struck and lovelorn Huey, Zak Risinger projects a wonderful combination of confusion and purpose. What he's trying to do makes a kind of weird sense. Michael Basile is spot on with Aldo's accent and body language. He's very comfortable in the opening scene, drawing the audience into the story and the world of Italian machismo. He walks a fine line keeping Aldo believable and vulnerable under the mannerisms.

Jean Brookman and Chris Casquilho have come up with three area sets in front of a cut-out cityscape that work very well and make the stage seem bigger. Miss Brookman's costumes are good as well, especially Huey's jodhpurs and Aunt May's blouse and hairnet. Gary Burlew's lighting is very effective, particularly in the balcony scene.

Stephen Nachamie has done an excellent job of staging and directing ITALIAN AMERICAN RECONCILIATION. He's found all the humor in the play, but kept the characters grounded in reality. We can follow the lunatic logic of their ideas and relationships. He's also made terrific music choices.

You can tell that this is one of Shanley's earlier plays as the ending is a bit awkward, but as a whole it's so enjoyable who cares? This production is a terrific ending for the Depot's season.

On a scale of one to five the Depot Theatre production of ITALIAN AMERICAN RECONCILIATION gets four and seven-eighths box cars. For North Country Public Radio, I'm Connie Meng.

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