Italian - American Reconciliation

John Patrick Shanley
Finborough Theatre
(2004)

This revival of American playwright John Patrick Shanley's 1986 comedy about love suffers from some major problems in casting. These are exacerbated by roving accents that weaken the sense of location that is so important, and also by the need for more rehearsal time.

All is not entirely lost, though. In particular, there is a very fine a performance from Angela Rauscher as the man-eating, or at least -shooting, Janice. She brings out an excellent and very funny performance from Roy Kahlil's Aldo in one scene that they share. It is hard to believe that any balcony love scene could be further from the romance of Romeo and Juliet.

Aldo is both narrator and protagonist in the sad story of his unbelievably weak best friend Huey, played by Paul Agar. Huey has a perfectly sweet girlfriend, Teresa, believably brought to the stage by Helen Owen-Taylor, who may be planning to ditch him but does really love him.

However, he gets in first because he still wants to be in love with his former wife, Janice. She is a tough, straight talking cookie and why on earth she would ever have looked at let alone married such a pathetic wimp is left unexplained.

When Aldo steps in to assist, he learns much about both himself and Janice, a far better matched couple. Like Cyrano, it is Aldo's role to step back and allow his bumbling friend to step into Janice's less than welcoming arms.

With its Latino characters and grungy New York feel, this is the kind of play that the LAByrinth Company do so well. In fact, they produced it in 2001.

While it says much about the human heart and contains elements of real comedy and some very sharp one-liners, Italian - American Reconciliation does not seem to have travelled as well as it might have.

Penny Dreadful who produced the recent Masks and Faces at the same theatre are to be congratulated on selecting a challenging play that is so different. At the moment, the delivery does not live up to the promise.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher