This is a romp. But beneath the comedic surface are more serious questions, the kind that never offer up complete answers, no matter how deeply we delve. Leave it to an Italian to ask about the crossover between being moved by beauty and the desire to create something moving and beautiful, between the drama acted out every day and the drama that reaches stage or screen, the roles we assign each other, who is directing and who is directed, where theft ends and art begins, all disguised as a whimsical play I am tempted to call an interplay.
Mario Fratti is the unexpected playwright. An Italian, he has lived in America since 1963. He is the author of more than 90 plays on a wide range of subjects; only the first 20 were written in Italian; for the rest he chose to write in English. Eloquent about the virtues of the Italian language, he grew to favor the preciseness and efficiency of English for the stage. He marvels that Italian plays of his 120 pages in length when translated into English fill only 80 pages. Regardless of language, he brings to his art and observation of human nature the layered, complex history of his native country through this century and last, not to mention the weight of centuries of genetic memory, the nuance of things said and not said.
Although the protagonist of this play is Nino, a famous male film director, it is the six passionate women of the title who hijack the action. In so doing, they reveal their own personalities, express their differences, act out their dramas, hatch their own plot. They cast off the monochromatic role of muse.
To see how they do it, see the play. In it you will understand how this work became the inspiration for the movie “Nine,” another of Mr. Fratti’s writing credits.
Giulia Bisinelli, who has appeared in several Fratti plays, once again gives us a unique combination of traits as Nino’s mistress, Sonia: alluring, innocent, wounded, hopeful, sensible, ready to transform.
Dona Vivino plays Valia, another mistress, much closer in temperament to Nino – more worldly, more cunning, more realistic than Sonia, confident of her powers.
Coleen Sexton is convincing as Marianna, Nino’s wife. She understands her husband. She has a long memory and inside knowledge.
Laine Rettmer plays Anna, Marianna’s friend, a shrewd observer and tactician, with a smart, appealing attitude. She takes a leadership role.
Ellen Berber as Mrs.Gunmore bursts on the scene with resources, resentments and a plan.
Carlotta Brentan, who plays Nino’s assistant, understated behind large glasses, holding a constant notebook, impresses by how she communicates not only with words, but facial expressions, gestures and movements that amount to tiny, choreographed moments. She is an actress to watch.
Kevin Sebastian plays Nino’s script-writer, ambitious, thwarted, reluctantly tethered to the director and his larger reputation.
And then we have Dennis Parlato as Nino, the picture of self-absorption, the suffering genius who makes everyone else suffer.
Writtten by Mario Fratti
Directed by Stephan Morrow
“Six Passionate Women”
THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY, 155 First Avenue, NYC
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM
October 9 through 26th