written and performed by
How To Be A Good Italian Daughter (In Spite of Myself), now playing at the Cherry Lane Studio Theatre, has a very specific audience in mind. It is targeted, dagger-like, at guilty daughters and the mothers that prey on them, milking that relationship for its humor and warmth. Unfortunately, for the rest of us, it is like a terrible family argument at the neighbors home during the holidays you want to leave, but you cant.
No doubt there will be a lot of people that love this show. There were a lot of laughs, some touching moments, and the women in the audience seemed to get it. But for the men, it was like an inside joke that you kept trying to understand, until you just became annoyed. Perhaps daughters have a higher threshold of pain than sons. Perhaps this starts with childbirth, which would make sense since Ms. Lavecchia starts the evening simulating her own birth causing her mother angst and pain before even drawing her first breath. Their relationship goes downhill from there.
The one-woman show is written and well-performed by Antoinette LaVecchia. She plays a number of characters including herself, her mother, a rather stereotypical annoying Italian male, a glamorous movie star version of herself, and her vagina. Oy vey. Ms. LaVecchia does a very good job of signaling each character and switching quickly between them, particularly in simulating phone conversations with her mother.
Additionally, the music, by Louis Tucci, the scenic design, by Michael V. Moore, and the lighting design, by Traci Klainerwere, were all excellent. Each contributed greatly toward building the emotion and fluidity of the piece. The show seems much larger than the stage at the Cherry Lane and credit goes to Director Ted Sod as well.
But these are achievements in support of a wafer-thin story. Without a story, you need an emotional connection to the characters, and I never got that. There were moments when I felt a connection build with the actress, but just as quickly it was pulled apart by a bit of business or a really funny joke. By the time the show had moved on to a talking vagina, I was pretty much done. Honestly, if a vagina is going to talk it has to say something besides – I paraphrase – Im horny.
The show brings to mind the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, since it’s centered on an attractive neurotic woman whooperates within an odd and ethnic family dynamic. The ethnicity isnt really as important as the idea of the old country.” If you loved the shtick of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, then this is probably the show for you. If not, send your wife with her friends.