This Week in Theater
by Rose Desena
How about a four hour lunch this Sunday?
I can’t think of anything more relaxing than gathering around a big table with family and friends under the summer sun. Put the whole setting in the garden of a Tuscan Villa and the image is nothing less than “Bellissimo”.
Writer Louise Munson takes the audience on a summer trip and sits us down at a big table in a Tuscany garden. It’s a time and place that many can only dream about. No cell phones, laptops, or televisions to get in the way of the total escape. Nothing to do but engage with the people you wants to share the experience with.
Although all the electronic devices have made our lives easier it has also kidnapped our souls. We rush to work and then rush home, stopping someplace to pick up take out, throw a meal on the table and eat while catching up on the news or work stuff. The kids are fanatically texting, choosing to push buttons rather than engaging in conversation. The art of language and storytelling among family is quickly diminishing. When was the last time your family sat down to a long meal and then played a game after or read out loud to each other?
My family is Italian so I am very familiar with the scene, back when I was a kid holiday dinning would take all day. However over the past few years we are lucky if we can get through a Thanksgiving dinner without those darn cell phones going off and the kids fidgeting. I was lucky enough to live in Italy for a year. We enjoyed endless lunches on the weekends, talking away feverishly; afterwards we would listen to music in the garden or at a café. It was lovely.
Luigi (Ray Xifo) is an endearing character, an educated intellectual, and a poet and like all good Italians, he is a communist who enjoyed the good things in life mostly free time. His wife Mariella wants him to enjoy what might be his last summer alive with their family. So, their children and grandkids are invited to spend the summer together in a Tuscan Villa. It’s a typical colorful family with a little dysfunction and a lot of love. Anna (Erin McIntosh) is only 13 years old and a little eccentric; she is trying to find her place in the world. She develops a relationship with her clever Grandpa as he teachers her to embrace life and to explore what she is most passionate about. They are quite cute together. Gian Franco Tordi (Paolo) is excellent as the upbeat cool animated guy who goes through life successfully savoring every moment.
The character development in this play kept me interested, unfortunately the script did not. Other than people engaging with one another there was nothing there, no plot, no arch or climax and to put it mildly…no real story that I could grab onto. To make things worse it ran over 2 1/2 hours (including one intermission). Yikes! The banter between the characters got repetitive and other than telling stories of personal history they had no conversation that would warrant such a long play. The constant setting and unsetting of the table made me nuts, and it was distracting. I don’t know if this was the idea of the Director Annie Mc Vey or perhaps the writer influenced her but the pacing was deliberately slowed, it just didn’t work.
At one point early on in the opening scene I wanted to scream out can someone give that girl her line please?
I did like the stage set, The VS. Theater is very small and David Mauer (Set Designer) created a nice comforting setting that made me feel like I was transported magically into another place, a calm Italian garden.
I understand what Munson was going for. We are a society which has lost contact with each other. We rush everywhere and never take time to “smell the roses,” but the script needs some good editing. It’s a nice story that should have been 70 minutes. It’s good when a writer can work closely with the director, but there should only be one person directing and making the decisions. It is important for the writer and the producers to respect their director’s choices. Some of my Issues with the directing and the pacing might have been the fault of conflicting opinions?
The production was part of the Inkwell Theater Development program, which has successfully supported the works of writers for over 10 years.
Written by: Louise Munson
Directed by: Annie McVey
Produced by: Daniel Shoenman, Bonnie Hallman
Presented by: The Inkwell Theater Company.
Runs: Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm through August 16, 2014.
VS Theatre is located at 5453 W. Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles, 90010. For reservations: