Nancy Sasso Janis
- Connecticut Critic
- Connecticut Critics Circle
“[A Room of My Own] is about longing for a time and place that no longer exists. It’s about memory: how we remember, what we remember, what we choose to forget and what we must ultimately accept. It’s about realizing that going back is the only way to go forward. It’s about family.” - Writer/director Charles Messina
Waterbury, CT - The 26th Mainstage season at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury kicks off with an Equity production of ‘A Room of My Own.’ The Connecticut premiere of the play, written and directed by Charles Messina, follows a sold-out run off-Broadway at the Abingdon Theatre in NYC earlier this year. ‘Room’ will be moving back into the city for a larger, open-ended run next year, and Whoopi Goldberg and her production company have begun helping to develop and produce the show as a television series, but Connecticut audiences have a chance to catch the play version at this local venue through Oct. 16.
The semi-autobiographical comedy revolves around a young writer who grows up in an Italian-American family living in 1979 Greenwich Village. Carl Morelli is the writer who remembers and (while sitting stage left) writes about his life growing up in a tiny and crumbling studio apartment with his unemployed father, older sister and strong-willed mother. His maternal uncle Jackie lives upstairs and makes frequent appearances, while his estranged paternal aunt only appears briefly. The young Carl wishes for a room of his own and an Atari video game console, and his fiercely loving mother knows that she cannot provide both.
Actor Ralph Macchio was in the original production and his lovely daughter Julia Macchio appears at 7A in the role of Jeannie Morelli. Mr. Macchio was in attendance at the cast party that followed the Saturday evening performance. The comedian Mario Cantone (‘Sex in the City,’ ‘The View,’) who played the high strung uncle in NYC, sat on the other side of any empty seat next to me during the show. Michael Lombardi, a Waterbury native, takes over the role of the adult Carl that was played by Mr. Macchio off-Broadway, and Christian Michael Camporin, who plays the child version of Carl, is also from Connecticut. This young actor recently completed a run in ‘Finding Neverland’ on Broadway and made his Broadway debut as Eric in ‘Matilda.’
The adult members of the Morelli family are loud and brash and strongly played by the cast. Equity member Johnny Tammaro, who has been involved with ‘Room’ since its inception in 2008 (in which he played the role of Uncle Jackie) easily reprises his role as the patriarch Peter. David Valcin steps into the role of the flamboyant Uncle Jackie and refrained from being a caricature while still being very funny.
Hofstra grad Julia Macchio got to show off her dancing degree in the role of the teenaged sister and Michael Lombardi brought some charm to the role of the adult Carl. The role of Aunt Jean was performed by 7A artistic director Semina De Laurentis for the opening weekend, but Liza Vann, who invited Ms. De Laurentis to see this piece off-Broadway and introduced her to the playwright, will return to the role for the rest of the Connecticut run.
Joli Tribuzio was a standout as the foul-mouthed mother/wife/sister who is struggling to make ends meet. Her performance reminded me of the fabulous Mona Lisa Vito in ‘My Cousin Vinny’ and this actress that was born and raised in the Bronx was perfectly cast in the role of Dotty Morelli.
The set of the tenement apartment designed by Brian Dudkiewicz was just that and Matt Guminski designed the lighting. Sound design by Matt Martin was excellent as usual and Daniel Husvar was in charge of the period-appropriate props. Costumes by Catherine Siracusa reflected the late seventies well.
Heed well the warning that ‘A Room of My Own’ deals will adult themes and contains VERY strong language. It is not recommended for ages under 13 and some parents might squirm themselves at the beginning of the play that is presented without intermission. While the foul language is within the realm of the various characters, it will definitely need to be trimmed for television.
The play is about surviving the home that Carl grew up in and while there is plenty of struggle to survive, there is also an abundance of laughs and love. It may be difficult to imagine the very fresh-mouthed young Carl growing up to be the adult that writes the play as we watch it. I enjoyed most the parts where the adult Carl breaks the fourth wall to speak to the actors; at one overwhelming point, he comes into the audience to sit on a stair. These bits of direction made the play more personal.
In her notes in the program, Ms. De Laurentis notes the passing of her dear friend and patron of the theatre, Margery Leonard. “I’m going to miss the lively conversation I’m sure we would have had about this dynamic new play. I’m going to miss our friendship,” she writes of her beloved friend that was an original member of the theatre’s development and steering committees. Rest in peace, Mrs. Leonard.
Pictured (from left) Joli Tribuzio as Dotty, Michael Lombardi as Carl, and David Valcin as Uncle Jackie in 'A Room of My Own' Photo by Paul Roth