Friday, October 15, 2010

ABC, L’Italiano s’Impara Cosi' or How to Learn Italian in One Hour

Photo by Ivan Seligman.

Everyone should be taught Italian like this. Splashy, colorful maps, poetry, music, a crash course on love and unapologetic impersonations of Italians from different regions telling the same story, each in a distinctly different way. The formidable, demanding and unflappable Professor Margharita, as played by Laura Caparrotti, made a rare appearance at The Cell Theater in NYC on October 5, 2010. A,B,C L’Italiano s’Impara Cosi’, is a one-woman show written and starring Caparrotti. She created Professor Margharita about 10 years ago, mainly for students. It was so well received, she has adapted it to a theater experience.

The Professor-Diva first appears on stage and, not pleased with the level of audience enthusiasm, gives us a loud “A-hem”, leaves the stage and makes her entrance again. Her message is clear and we, her lackluster students, applaud wildly this time. Her smile is approving. The chain of command is clear. We are her captives for the duration of the lesson.

The Professor is dressed in some combination of royalty-gypsy-showgirl. A long dark blue velvet coat covered with loops of beige ribbon and a gold lame’ turban adorned with 2 long, beaded tassels on either side of her face that swing with every move of her head. You can’t take your eyes off of her.

She begins with a history lesson of the Italian peninsula’s changing empires over the centuries. Using oversized, colorful maps, she brings home the point that after 150 years, unification is more concept than reality.

This is comically illustrated by taking 6 cities, from north to south, and impersonating a citizen from each one as they face various situations. The cities are Bolzano, Milan, Florence, Rome, Naples, and Palermo. The Professor explains why the inhabitants are so different from each other and then embodies each one, through song and storytelling. This culminates in a skit involving each citizen giving eyewitness testimony to the same crime: a drive-by shooting on an Italian street. While the crime isn’t funny, the testimony each witness gives is so heavily influenced by the town in which they live that it’s hilarious. This segment is based upon The Deposition by Tuscan actor and writer Uberto Kovacevich.

When the show was over I didn’t want it to end. Luckily, Caporrotti is working on a second act to teach us even more distinctly Italian elements.

Laura Caparrotti is the Artistic Director of KIT-Kairos Italy Theater in New York City. She is a playwright, journalist, Italian and Theater teacher, lecturer, curator and panelist for the New York State Council on the Arts. After years of professional theater in Italy, she relocated to New York where she has directed and/or performed in venues like The Kitchen, The Fringe Festival, Abrons Arts Center, Bernie West Theatre, Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimo’, Center for Jewish History and Lincoln Center. Off Broadway, she served as Assistant Director in Souls of Naples featuring John Turturro. She is also the worldwide representative for the Italian icon, Antonio De Curtis, better known as Totò.

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