Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Miracle at Naples

Laugh, but be warned—convergence continuum’s MIRACLE AT NAPLES

David Grimm’s THE MIRACLE AT NAPLES is the kind of script that convergence continuum’s Artistic Director, Clyde Simon loves. It’s filled with sexuality, bawdiness, in-your-face language, has a convoluted plot, and offers lots of opportunities for slapstick.

THE MIRACLE AT NAPLES has a commedia dell'arte backbone. That type of Italian theatricality laid the foundation for the laughs in early slapstick films (think Marx Brothers, The Keystone Cops and the Three Stooges). It centers on misunderstanding, mistaken identities, mix-ups, trickery, and sexual innuendos.

Don Bertolino Fortunato, the conniving leader of a motley band of traveling players, arrives in a Neapolitan town square on September 19, 1580. The people of Naples are awaiting the annual miracle: the liquefaction of the blood of the city's patron saint. Unfortunately, the miracle won't occur, and therefore, neither can the feast of San Gennaro. That means that the penniless troupe can’t perform. They have nothing to do with their free time other than to cause chaos and become lustful lovers. In the process, one of the performers announces her pregnancy, two of the male cast not only have a liaison with a local lass, but fall in love with each other, and Fortunato, himself, rekindles an old love affair.

A Boston director of the show stated, "David's genius is that he matches the play's bawdiness and boisterousness with incredible emotional depth and wit. This play is a gorgeous human exploration of love in its multiple forms, from the improvised and instinctual, to the courtly and classically romantic. David is a real poet of both the beauty of instant pleasure and the search for enduring meaning. He is equally adept at writing a deeply textured scene about love as a good dirty joke, and this play has plenty of both!" I wouldn’t go so far as referring to the script as having incredible emotional depth, but it is very, very funny and well written.

How can a script with such lines as, “She has a face like a smacked ass” and “You are the joke, I am the punch line,” not delight?

Con-con’s production, under the direction of Geoffrey Hoffman, is fun. He builds a nice level of pace and panic and seems to have a touch with the sexual overtones. Maybe his forthcoming marriage has keyed his sensual senses.

Robert Hawkes hits all the right notes of outrageousness of Don Bertolino Fortunato, the father and theatrical director from hell. Lucy Bredeson-Smith is a laugh hoot as the overbearing Francescina, nanny to the sweet, teenaged Flaminia. Francescina’s plot for her ward can have sex and still be a virgin, is only one of many hysterical plot developments. Beautiful Emily Pucell is the perfect Flaminia, a bundle of pulsating hormones with love on her mind.

Stuart Hoffman, he of overdone pronunciation and posturing, has an old-time comedian Joey Brown face that he molds into all kinds of uptight smirks as the pompous Giancarlo. Petite Lauren Smith, who both loves and hates Giancarlo, who has impregnated her, is a laugh riot.

Ray Caspio, as Tristano is delightful as the sexually confused Matteo. The star of the show is Zack Hudak, who plays the simple Matteo, who acts on emotional impulses…logic be damned. Hudak, with his doe eyes, mobile face and great comic timing, is a delight to watch. This kid knows how to create comedy! Caspio and Hudak’s “happy dance” brought forth spontaneous applause as did their extended lip lock!

The set is excellent, creating just the right mood. The Liminis, the con-con performing space, only has 50 seats so tickets may be scarce for this production.

Be warned: Horror of horrors, there are swear words spoken, male-male kissing, and the touching of female breasts.

Capsule Judgement: From its very first line, "To hell with my virginity!" to its obvious happily ever-after ending , convergence continuum’s THE MIRACLE AT NAPLES is raunchy, ribald and funny. It is definitely recommended for mature audiences who are looking for summer entertainment and aren’t uptight.