This past weekend, two very different families took up residence at Branson Theater.
The first of two presentations was "Ciao Bella," written by Trinity senior Sabrina Ricci. The play begins on Christmas Eve at the Antonucci home where we are introduced to Wanda, the stereotypical nagging Italian mom. Joey is her seemingly hopeless son. Alfonsina, or "Fonsi," is a family friend and a well-to-do Yale student who wants to become a nun. Joey and Fonsi go out on a date and, at first, interact like oil and water. However, the two realize that they have something in common: they are people who don't have a future because they've been too comfortable in a habitual life to really dream and hope.
Trinity junior Adam Morenoff was a lovable Joey, both rugged and suave. Morenoff exuded enough cockiness to make us laugh, but enough sincerity for us to sympathize with his search for an identity.
Trinity senior Christy English was an adorably annoying Ma, while Trinity freshman Michele Cicale was hilarious as Joey's ditzy girlfriend. Although Trinity freshman Robert Sprague and second year visiting lecturer Randy Reinholz carried less visible roles, they were refreshingly light-hearted additions.
Trinity sophomore Katie Walsh's performance, however, was not as colorful as the others, but this may be due to her role as a character foil for Joey. Singled out, Fonsi is a dull person, but is vital to the development of Joey's character.
Among the highlights were Father McNally chowing down on McDonald's french fries during Wanda's confession, and Joey's impromptu solo of Boyz II Men's "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye." Another memorable episode occurs during a heated argument between Joey and Fonsi. As tensions flare, Fonsi angrily runs off and Joey yells "Don't run backstage!"
Although it was performed on stage, the rhythm and delivery was more of a well-written, well-acted sitcom (if there is such a thing). Ricci provides a smart and witty script, equally balanced with humor and meaning. "Ciao Bella" does not stray too much into pure comedy nor does it get too mushy during the quiet moments.
Trinity junior Chris Nelson's "Roe's Bouquet" was a disturbing, melodramatic cross between "Mommie, Dearest" and "`Night, Mother." Roseann (Trinity junior Paris Goodyear) and Samantha (Trinity senior Ellen Lee) are incompatible roommates that happen to be mother and daughter.
Goodyear skillfully portrays Roseann as an archetypal mommie dearest, a widowed actress who dates a different man each night, and who is more of a wardrobe advisor to Samantha than a mother. Lee is an angry, destructive Samantha.
The surrealist set-up of props and lights downplays the importance of the plot, but accentuates the realistic tensions of a daughter and mother who cannot live a remotely normal life. Furthermore, Trinity senior Rasheed Hinds takes on three or four minor roles, shifting the focus off of him and highlighting the central characters.
Goodyear's Roseann comes across as clear-minded and composed, while Lee's Samantha is a volatile, seemingly mad young woman. Unfortunately, the mother is actually indifferent, while Samantha is the sane individual confronting their dysfunctional relationship. This absurdity is perhaps the underlying message of Nelson's work. At one point, Samantha and Roseann need to use a script in order to communicate and have some semblance of a mother-daughter relationship.
The only hindrance in this play is its over-dramaticizing and the exaggerated attempt at making this piece picturesque and artsy. The words are powerful, but seem awkward coming out of a person's mouth rather than in print. However, this avant-garde quality may be irritating only because the play followed "Ciao Bella," a more conventional format.
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Nevertheless, "Roe's Bouquet" leaves a bitter aftertaste, making one still ponder the effects of having seen two twisted personalities unravel.