Friday, February 5, 2010

Tosca E Le Altre Due, Tosca and the Two Women Downstairs

I had the pleasure of a rare theatric experience on Wednesday night, February 3 at The Cell theater in NYC. A gem of a production, Tosca E Le Altre Due by Franca Valeri presents themes of socio-economic class differences, social mores, relations between the sexes and the consequences of personal and civic violence, just to name a few. All of this is presented through the lens of biting social satire as we watch two women meet and unfold their lives against the backdrop of Puccini’s Tosca, going on all around them.

Valeri created this work of fiction by creating Emilia and Iride, the wives of the jailer of Castel Sant’Angelo and Sciarrone the torturer, respectively. Most of the action occurs in Palazzo Farnese, where the fiery plot of Tosca is in full blaze. Emilia and Iride’s conversations are punctuated by the screams of Mario Cavaradossi and the crashing and fighting of the Baron and Tosca.

Laura Caparrotti and Marta Mondelli play two women from different worlds who are united by the violence in their lives. Each has different reasons for being there and each ultimately decides differently about her future. If it sounds like a heavy, dark story, it is in a way. But the beauty of Valeri’s writing and Caparrotti and Mondelli’s acting is that as you’re watching the play it seems light and at times quite funny. The deeper story streams from the seeming triviality of their conversations and the interruptions of the Tosca story unfolding all the while.

The play is performed in Italian with English subtitles. Not just Italian, but Roman and Milanese dialect. Due to the logistics of the space, the subtitles were projected onto the flat, white wall in the upper right hand side of the action. Therefore, in order to read them, I had to take my eyes off of the actresses to keep up with the story. Unfortunately, this meant that I missed some of the subtlety of the acting conveyed in facial expressions and body movement.

Franca Valeri is one of Italy’s favorite actresses and satirists. Now at 90 years old, she will debut a new play in Rome in October, 2010. Over her long career, she created a gallery of female characters with which she has “mocked the vices and snobberies of bourgeois life and de facto become a humorist for intellectuals that is liked by the masses.” This show is a great way to be introduced to, or continue to appreciate, Valeri’s work.

Tosca E Le Altre Due runs from February 3-21, 2010.
When: February 3-21, 2010
Where: The Cell, 338 W 23rd Street, Manhattan
Presented by Kairos Italy Theater and The Cell

To learn more, click here.

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