Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trouble in Chiozza by Carlo Goldoni

Angela Dubnow and Daniel Jimenez - Photo Garth Pillsbury

By Joe Straw

La baruffe chiozzotte (Brawling in Chioggia) by Carlo Goldoni was first performed in 1762 at the Teatro San Luca in Venice, Italy.  Although it’s been said that people don’t see much of Goldoni’s work, this makes the second play by Goldoni that I’ve seen in a year.  The first was A Servant for Two Masters at Dr. Paul Carlson Park in Culver City. Not bad for Goldoni who died in 1793, over two hundred and twenty years ago.  (I wonder if he still gets royalties.)

The shading was exquisite, the songs delightful, the women beautiful, and the men acted with rugged determination. All this makes for wonderful mix of amorous rhapsodies of life along the Venice canals and who doesn’t like to see young lovers making mistakes and getting into a lot of trouble.   

The City of West Hollywood presents Free Theater in the Parks - Trouble in Chiozza by Carlo Goldoni, produced by Classical Theatre Lab, and directed by Louis Fantasia, with English translation, a rifacimento, of a classic Italian work by Robert Hoyem. Trouble in Chiozza was performed at the beautiful Kings Road Park in West Hollywood and was the perfect setting for this delightful Venetian comedy. 

In a heartbeat, love can go so wrong. 

Trouble in Chiozza is a soup made from besotted lovers. It is a tangy but tasty soup blended naturally with the finest ingredients.  Throw in a dash of oregano, a bay leaf, and passionate hot Italians, and the effect is an entire Venetian village on the verge of chaos.  

But, what could be more enchanting than listening to music sung on a bridge over the Canal Vena’s Chioggi lagoon? It is there that the women of two families sit on opposite sides of the bridge (no bridge - just my imagination) discussing life in general while sewing pretty lace on envisaging pillows.

On this day, Toffolo (Daniel Jimenez), a gondola boat owner, chooses to flirt with Lucietta (Carolyn Reese Crotty) by buying her a roasted slice of hot sugar pumpkin.  All this in front of his love Checca (Tatiana Lopez) who is now livid because she doesn’t want her man flirting with another woman.

But that doesn’t bother Lucietta who loves hot sugar pumpkin and cares little for Checca or her family. Lucietta savors the delicious snack with her sister-in-law, Pasqua (Christine Avila). And so they enjoy the flirtations of the young and manly Toffolo, as they apply patterned lace on the pillows.

Checca is there with her younger sister, Orsetta (Angela Dubnow), and her older sister Madam Libera (Maggie Palomo). Of course, the insults go back and forth between the two sides of the bridge – involving comments about being old maids and remaining so for the remainder of their days.  This raises their hackles and a fight ensues.

Meanwhile Paron Toni (Donald Wayne), husband to Pasqua, comes home singing “There’s No Tomorrow” with his crew on his boat including Beppo (Dex Matthews)—his younger brother and Titta Nane (Paul David Story)—a young fisherman who is madly in love with Lucietta. 

Paron Vincenzo (Joe Hulser), a buyer of fish, is haggling over the price of fish and, from a business perspective, throws everyone into a tizzy.

Beppo confides he wants to marry Orsetta but Lucietta doesn’t think Orsetta is fit for human consumption, much less marriage.  Somewhere along the way, the word gets out that Toffolo bought Lucietta hot sugar pumpkin and Titta Nane is infuriated.  Titta Nane, panting frightfully, confronts Toffolo and an argument ensues, words are exchanged, threats are made, and a rock is thrown.

Paron Toni wants none of this and breaks up the fight that, in all of its comedic elements, looks serious.

“That woodchuck is going to pay for this!” – Titta Nane.

Woodchuck is a nickname. They all have cute little nicknames—Toffolo is Woodchuck, Checca is Cream Cheese (because of her beautiful smooth skin), and pretty Orsetta is Mixed Bread (I didn’t get this one.  Hmmm, mixed bread in the soup of life?)

Later, Paron Fortunato (Steve Peterson) comes home and greets his wife Madam Libera and her sisters. All of them are hysterical because of the problems with Madam Pasqua and Lucietta.  Fortunato tells them; as best he can because there is something wrong with his speech (possibly a fishing accident) that everything is going to be okay and not to make trouble.

Both Paron Fortunato and Paron Toni want things to remain calm.  They’ve been to sea and it seems as though the rough seas have followed them home to hysterical woman rocking their familia boat.

Toffolo has had enough and he reports the crimes to Isodoro (Michael Matthys) who sends his Constable (Zeijka Z. Gortinski) with a summons to gather the information to see if a crime has been committed.   That’s when all the fun starts.  

I’ve had a run of luck lately seeing productions that have exceptional actors and fine direction.  Trouble in Chiozza is no exception.  This company has an experienced cast and they work hard to put on a brilliant show. And I can’t say enough about the diversity in this program.  Hollywood could learn a lesson.

L - R Michael Matthys, Carolyn Reese Crotty, Angela Dubnow, Daniel Jimenez - Photo Garth Pillsbury

Christine Avila as Pasqua is wonderful and has a marvelous voice.  She is the older married sister who has her younger sister-in-law living with them.  (This was probably a cultural thing back then.).  Pasqua is devious accepting the slice pumpkin and letting the sister accept it as well.  She creates a stir for reasons only known to her but I believe it has something to do with keeping her sister-in-law with her for reasons of enterprise and help around the house.  

Carolyn Reese Crotty as Lucietta was grand in her performance and had some really fine subtle moments in her character. She is stubborn but wants to get married if only to get away from her sister-in-law who is taking advantage of her.

Angela Dubnow plays Orsetta and did a fine job.  She has a very interesting look and always seemed to find the perfect light of this shady park to showcase her performance. She is a maiden in an enchanted forest – and that is a delightful image.

Zeijka Z. Gortinski plays the Constable and the Servant and did her job rather well inclusive of her Yugoslavian accent.

Joe Hulser was Paron Vincenzo.  This is an interesting character that appears to want to buy fish at the lowest possible price but doesn’t come right out and say what he is willing to pay, or how much he wants to screw the fisherman.  The men work hard fishing to get a good price and get paid a nice wage only to come back home and get a small pittance of what they deserve.  He got what he wanted unscathed and returned to his happy home.   

Daniel Jimenez was excellent as Toffolo and captured the essence of the very verbal Italian persona.  He explodes onto the set and never lets up.  He was very physical in the role, tough when he wanted to be and a coward when he needed to be. He also plays string instruments, which fit in nicely with the songs of the production.

Tatiana Lopez was a very pretty Checca.  There were slight problems hearing her on this day. (Not sure what to do about the helicopters passing overhead, just wait or say the lines louder.) Lopez is very charming and tantalizing in the role.

Dex Matthews is an outstanding Beppo.  Easily fooled by slander and innuendo to run off in a very wrong direction.  I think his character has to try harder because Orsetta is the hardest one to get. Matthews does an outstanding job.

Michael Matthys is brilliant as Isodoro Adjunct of the Court Chancellor.  The scene where he is interviewing the sisters are specific, nuanced, and establishes a different emotional relationship with each interviewee. Matthys is excellent and exciting to watch.   

I would say Matthys’ performance is worth the price of admission, but admission is free. But if you like, his or anyone else’s performance, please fill free to put money into the collection plate.

Ernest McDaniel as Conocchia/Stage Combat does some very fine work.  It not enough to hand out hot pumpkin.  A commitment must be made to give to one family and ignore the other. Still a fine job. 

Magie Palomo plays Libera. Married, she may have wanted what her counterpart wanted for her sisters to remain with her and help her with her husband and around the house. But, on the outside chance she wants her sisters to be married she must protect their honor against neighbors and protect their reputations. Palomo is marvelous in the role.

Steve Peterson plays Paron Fortunato. While it is not understood why Fortunato speak with a slight disability, possibly the reason he fribbles on stage. Still, I found his physical and vocal performance funnier as the play proceeded and could not stop laughing.  Fortunato wants his sister-in-laws married and out of the house and he tries to cool tempers before everything gets out of hand. This was a wonderful performance.

Paul David Story plays Titta Nane and does an exceptional job. Story is a focused and concentrated actor, catching the moments as they come to him. He is not bad to look at and has a remarkable presence on stage. His character is in such a hurry to defend his honor he forgets about his love and manages to secure her in the worst possible way.

Donald Wayne plays Paron Toni. He tries to restore order but nothing seems to work until it is all out of his control.  Wayne does some very first-rate work.

Louis Fantasia, the director, does some really fine work here.  I believe I was at the opening and I noticed the actors were, at that time, getting acclimated to the space.  And the space was grand.  One can almost see the bridge, the canals, and the homes all in this park. Fantasia gets the most out of his actors and over all it was a wonderful production.

Playing the park has its challenges.  Someone should call the city and tell them to turn off their helicopters devices.  Here’s a question: Do you stop the actors and wait for the helicopter to leave? Would you treat it the same as phone?  Or would you speak louder? I think waiting is a better alternative.

Other members of this fine production company are as follows:

Suzanne Hunt – Producer/Co-Artistic Coordinator
Laura James – Assistant Director/Producer/Co-Artis Coordinator
Laure Jamme – Stage Manager
Dorothy MacLean – Costume Design
Alex Wells – Producer/Chair/Co-Artistic Coordinator
Nora Feldman – Publicist

Run! Run! Run!  And take a young love.

Free but call for reservations:  323-960-5691

Through July 28, 2013 at 4:00pm

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