Napoli, Brooklyn Review - A Tumultuous and Heartwrenching Drama

 

Roundabout presents the world premiere of Napoli, Brooklyn, and the latest work from Meghan Kennedy (Roundabout Underground’s Too Much, Too Much, Too Many). Long Wharf Theatre Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein (The Road to Mecca) directs this fiery and emotionally heartbreaking new play.
 

Picture it:  Brooklyn, 1960.  Mom, dad and three daughters are living in a small apartment.  Mom stays home making the worlds’ best pasta sauce.  Dad works in tar (literally) as he supports his family.  One sister is a closeted lesbian yearning to come out.  The other sister was sent away to a Convent because she tried to kill her father (she certainly had good reason to),  and the third sister works in a factory, doing the same job every day for little money, and yearns to learn how to read a book.

Aside from the relatable time and the cramped quarters in the Muscolino household, this family reinvents the meaning of dysfunction in every way possible.

 

 

Mom, Luda, (Alyssa Brenham) seems to do everything right.  She is the perfect cook, a wonderful mom and a dutiful wife.  Inside, Luda has dreams.  Her marriage to Nic (Michael Rispoli) seems to come out of a Godfather story; In fact, Mr. Rispoli has appeared in the Sopranos and other ‘crime boss’ dramas.

One minute he loves his wife, the next minute, he is beating his daughter, as his temper is uncontrollable.  The whole family is afraid of Nic.  Rightly so.  He has three daughters, yes, but has always regretted not having a son.  Nic blames Luca.  Nic also has a favorite child and has no shame telling his preferences to the other daughters as well as to Luda.

 

 

Francesca (Jordyn DiNatale) is the emergent lesbian in 1960, who chops her hair off despite her fathers’ warning that he will chop her arm off because she has disobeyed him.  She is in love with her best friend, Connie Duffy (Juliet Brett), who is the daughter of the towns’ butcher, Albert Duffy, played by Erik Lochtefeld, (who has his own crush on Luda).  Connie and Francesca plan their escape to Paris as stowaways, so they can be open lovers, smoke, eat French food, and just walk the streets in love.

Vita (Elise Kibler) is a smart-mouthed 20-year old who has been sent to the convent to either keep her safe from her father’s wrath (he did break two of her ribs and her nose), or to punish her.  Either way, she’s better off not at home.

The eldest sister Tina, (Lilli Kay), 26, is the factory-worker.  She becomes best friends with a happily married black girl, Cilia Jones (Shirine Babb) , who helps inspire her to read.  Nic has trouble looking at Celia.  Remember, this is 1960, the beginning of a very tumultuous decade.

The stage remains unchanged with its period kitchen setup as the kitchen table has most of the action.

 

 

The acting in the production is outstanding.  The acting goes beyond the “New Yauk” accent, but carries through to each actors’ individual personalities.  The caliber of acting draws us into this show by constantly bringing the families’ stories to the forefront, whether in verbal form or extreme physical violence.

 

 

If you were thinking of visiting the restrooms right before the end of the first act, stay in your seats because you are in for a jolt, literally.  Although the show is 2 hours with intermission, there is a definite need for the 15-minute break, as you will see.   There is a lot of audience buzz especially at this point.  I am sure you will be part of it.

 

 

You do care very much about each character in this play.  This family could be Irish, Jewish, or any other, ethnicity.  We all have our demons.

My one comment would be that because of the deep issues each of the characters possess, it becomes a bit overwhelming as the stories either need more time or there needs to be less stories to inhale.  You care about these characters and want to see complete resolution.

The second act is a powerhouse of a production in many ways.  It may or may not have brought that resolution we are looking for; it’s hard to tell.  Problems still exist and you feel you want to go further into the future to see what happens to everyone.  Maybe that is a good thing.  As you leave the theatre you can picture your own personal resolution of each character.  It certainly creates after-show conversation.

Napoli, Brooklyn had its world premiere on June 27.  This is a LIMITED RUN production and will end on September 3, 2017

Napoli is currently playing at the Laura Pels Theatre.  Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. The address is 111 West 46th Street, NYC.

The Roundabout Theatre Company creates a wonderful environment for plays.  Visit The Roundabout Theatre Company website  for more information about this production as well as the wonderful things this organization does to contribute to our arts community.

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