This Week in Theater
Review by Rose Desena
Doma Theater Company brings us another award winning musical, “Nine,” which explores the life and demise of an Italian film maker, based on Fellini’s semi- autobiographical flick 8 ½ weeks. I can just imagine the life Fellini led. He was certainly controversial, quite arrogant and vomited his own intellectualism but he had this special savvy that forced everyone to worship him.
My film major friends in NYC all waited with bated breath for his films to open and then they would sit around in cafes discussing them for months. I never got suckered into that and most of the time I left the theater scratching my head in utter dismay and questioning my own sanity for going in the first place. However, he was very much an artist and from what I have read a real amusing character and, let’s face it, women love well known directors even if they’re jerks.
Guido Contini, (David Michael Trevino), the Italian film maker in the play, was no different. As a narcissistic director struggling to save his artistic career, he has taken money for a film that he has no script for. Here in LA, we look down on such things and he would most likely get you sued, hey, but in Italy they have their own way of dealing with cons.
Not only is this sexy Italian lover dealing with a lack of motivation and a creative slump but it is painfully brought to his attention that all the women in his life (and there are many) are ready to hang him by his expensive Armani pants. His French producer, Liliane (Emilia Sotelo), is no exception. She has vowed to castrate him if he does not stick to the shoot date that is just a mere few weeks away. In desperation his wife Luisa (Melissa Anjose) suggests a trip to an expensive Venetian spa and voilà we have a story.
The first act opens with a company song, “Not Since Chaplin” and sets the tone. It was good and it let the audience know the company was trained in musical theater. Throughout the actors pranced around the stage in lovely costumes to which there were many changes. It made for a decent visual production but it took a while for me to figure out what was missing.
The voice of Guido was just not right for the script, the music is very powerful and it needed the voice of a strong tenor instead of the non-descript tone of Trevino. There were two very moving songs that he sings in duet with his long term love and muse Claudia, but the actors substituted low screaming for what should have been raw emotional power.
His opening song “Guido’s Song” lacked guts but I thought he just needed a warm up. Trevino looks the part and had a good persona as a debonair Italian but this play, like all musicals needed those “bring the house down voices” that are not easily found.
It also appears that Guido has mother issues. Imagine that an Italian guy with mother issues! She keeps appearing in and out of his life like a ghost. I didn’t think she had chemistry with Guido or the rest of the cast except for the young boy who played Little Guido (Donovan Baise) who is absolutely adorable. Even though he has no speaking lines he emotes pure emotion, both he and Michelle Holmes (Mother) share a very endearing scene. My favorite character is Carla (Loviee Carroll), his sexy mistress, who has a stunning voice and does a great job in her solo songs “ A call From The Vatican” and “Simple”.
It takes a lot of money and time to put on a musical and I have to say that the Doma Theater Company does a real decent job. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. Although I didn’t see “Dream Girls” or “Avenue Q” I know they received rave reviews. I think we are lucky to have a theater that can put on musicals for a $30 a ticket.
I am not sure that my skepticism is all the fault of the Doma Theater crew. After carefully analyzing this I just didn’t care for the book written by Arthur Kopit. You can add glamor and glitz to a musical but you still need two important components, five or six good songs and a great book. I thought most of the songs were just ok but the story lacked that knock out punch. Guido was not a character one likes or cares about, other than Carla, everyone is out for him or herself.
There really isn’t a likable character. It’s a story about a self-destructive person who leaves victims every time he moves. I found I just didn’t care what happened in the end. The play dragged and I drifted off, unable to stay focused on the activity. Perhaps it just was just not interesting enough to keep me alert. I was not alone in this experience. The man sitting next to me, a perfect stranger, turned and asked me in a low whisper to nudge him if he falls asleep again. I didn’t fall asleep but I wasn’t stomping my feet either. If you’re looking for some light entertainment this might work for you.
Runs- Friday and Saturday @ 8pm Sunday @3pm until Aug 18th
Directed and Staged – Marco Gomez
Book- Arthur Kopit
Music – Maury Yeston
Adapted from Mario Fratti
Musical Director- Chris Raymond
Choreographer- Rae Toledo
Doma Theater Company@ The Met Theater
1089 N. Oxford Ave.
Los Angeles Ca. 90029
Log on for tickets and more information, www.domatheatre.com