Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Miracle at Naples"

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note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Carl A. Rossi


by David Grimm
directed by Peter DuBois

Flaminia … Christina Pumariega
Francescina … Alma Cuervo
Don Bertolino Fortunato … Dick Latessa
La Piccola … Lucy DeVito
Tristano … Pedro Pascal
Matteo … Gregory Wooddell
Giancarlo … Alfredo Narciso
Ensemble … Paul Cereghino; Sam Kikes; Rebecca Newman; Jessica Uher

I attended the final matinee of David Grimm’s THE MIRACLE AT NAPLES which received its world premiere through the Huntington Theatre Company; I wonder if Opening Night was a more subtle affair, for I witnessed a wall of noise posing as sixteenth-century commedia dell’arte as its Neapolitan heroine Flaminia did her damnedest to lose her virginity to her chosen lover Giancarlo after submitting anally to Tristano and Matteo --- all three men being members of a traveling commedia company, presided over by Don Bertolino Fortunato who began a belated romance with Flaminia’s nurse Francescina, unaware that his shrewish daughter La Piccola was carrying Giancarlo’s child. If Mr. Grimm meant to pay homage to commedia characters, lazzi and plots, he succeeded more at deconstruction: Flaminia should have been the typical ingénue stirred by naughty thoughts; as written by Mr. Grimm, directed by Peter DuBois and belted by Christina Pumariega, the play began with her line “To hell with my virginity!” in full throttle and a Bawd was born (doesn't anyone know how to evoke a virgin, anymore? --- as if it is a disgrace, nowadays, to be a symbol of purity). Secondly, there was no juvenile to pair off with the ingénue; instead, Flaminia chased after the “Captain” following her buggering by “Scapino” and “Punchinello” and closed the show with hymen intact as everyone else paired off. Thirdly, while Flaminia’s hijinks were in the name of rowdy fun, the unexpected love affair between Tristano and Matteo was treated tenderly and seriously. Then there was the nature of the script itself: several years ago, I attended numerous performances of Boston’s I Sebastiani commedia troupe which, in true commedia style, improvised their romps using the barest of outlines: if the performance lagged, the clowns would throw in something to jump-start it, again --- an air of anything-can-happen hung over their fun, and when they were “hot”, they were hilarious. In contrast, Mr. Grimm had written a script with lines to be memorized and actions to be choreographed; since it did not encourage departures or digressions, THE MIRACLE AT NAPLES could only grow louder during its run and, again, it was pretty noisy by the time I attended. However, the afternoon’s audience whooped like parochial students over all the potty-talk (and this, as advertised, an “adult” comedy) --- yet they murmured when the male lovers passionately kissed; no doubt, they would be further shocked by such honest fare as Verlaine’s sex-poems of his fucking both men and women; they may be obscene but they are elegantly obscene and are full of throbbing, ejaculating life.

There was no Joy of Sex in THE MIRACLE AT NAPLES but Dick Latessa, even late in the run, bellowed and grouched his Don Bertolino without flooring his characterization, and Alexander Dodge contributed a light-saturated, earthy piazza with clever recessions to suggest a post-Renaissance depth of field --- an illusion shattered whenever a character entered or exited upstage and briefly became a giant in the distance.

"The Miracle at Naples" (3 April - 9 May)
Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 266-0800

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide