Review: “Spanker Machine” at BAAD and the Bernie Wohl Center

Featured: Michela Sale Musio Photo by Elena Santucci

Featured: Michela Sale Musio Photo by Elena Santucci

  • Max Berry, Contributing Critic - New York City

“Spanker Machine” is performed through the In Scena Italian Theater Festival and tells the story of a young woman, Anita, as she tries to make sense of the most traumatic moments of her life through dressing up as her favorite characters (Sailor Moon, Anne of Green Gables, Oren Ishi). Tormented by a mother who never accepted her controversial sexuality and a lover, Marco, who left without explanation, she finds refuge in her characters. We as the audience are given details of her life outside of the characters through, phone calls and Anita’s stories.

“Spanker Machine” was a  very unique and powerful story, playing off of the idea that the things we love as children can be used in our adult lives to help us cope with the stress and pain of real life. Though we never see the other players in Anita’s life on stage, their presences are felt in each pained phone call or hurt remark. Perhaps the most striking relationship is that of Anita and her mother. When she speaks to her on the phone, Anita stands in front of a spanker machine and endures the pain as a form ritual self-punishment, really showing us how hard it is to divorce oneself from the abuse we have experienced in our lives.

“Being a part of the Italian Theater Festival, the entire play was spoken in Italian. However, there were English subtitles. These were obviously a huge help to those of us who did not speak Italian, yet there were many occasions where the subtitles and the actress were off sync and the story got a little confusing for a moment. Though, the spectacular acting by Michela Sale Musio made these moments very minor issues, as even when I had no subtitles to guide me, her intentions and thoughts were incredibly clear. I understood completely what was going on in her head. Being the only one on stage, Musio had a big job, that being to keep everyone’s attention for an hour with just her, and she accomplished this flawlessly. There was not a moment when I wasn’t hanging on every word or thought.

“Spanker Machine” stands out as one of the more original pieces of theatre I’ve seen in awhile and I look forward to seeing where it goes next.


“Spanker Mahine” was written and directed by Tiziana Troja

It was performed by Michela Sale Musio.

Produced by Lucidosottile

It was performed at BAAD (2474 Westchester Ave, The Bronx, NY 10461) on April 30th, at 8:30 PM and will be performed again on May 4, at 8:30 PM at the Bernie Wohl Center (647 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10024)

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