BWW Reviews: SCR Offers Luminous LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA For One More Week Only

BWW Reviews: SCR Offers Luminous LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA For One More Week Only

The Light in the Piazza/book by Craig Lucas; music & lyrics by Adam Guettel/directed by Kent Nicholson/South Coast Repertory/through February 23

Like a beautiful painting Adam Guettel's The Light in the Piazza is a true work of art. With discordant music not unlike that of Stephen Sondheim, written for a small chamber orchestra, feelings of love - from all kinds of people -fuel passionately. Without the right actresses to play the American mother and daughter visiting Florence, the play loses its fragility and inner beauty. This production could not be more divine. Patti Cohenour as Margaret Johnson and Erin Mackey as her decidedly different daughter make sparks fly with their glorious acting and singing.

As the story goes, Clara Johnson was kicked by a pony in the back of the head at age 12 and suffered a mental deficiency as a consequence. So, at first glance, she seems sincere and enthusiastically atuned to the world around her, but it isn't until later when reactions of fear and rage emerge from her, that we clearly understand how very unusual she is. And...this different behavior is at times keen and extraordinarily insightful, especially when it comes to appreciating the loyalty that should exist between lovers...

Fabrizio Naccarelli (David Burnham) falls madly and passionately for Clara. It is up to Margaret to decide if his intentions are truly honorable and if Clara will be able to handle the situation with any any form of stability. At first she objects vehemently, but gradually comes to realize that Clara is more mature than she has given her credit for. Fabrizio's brother Giuseppe (Christopher Newell), in typical Italian style, cheats on his wife Franca (Melina Kalomas) and the Signora (Mary Gutzi) is quick to attest to the fact that Italian husbands are prone to wander, as is her husband (Perry Ojeda). What bothers Clara is this open sense of infidelity and she is not afraid to point out to Franca that Fabrizio is her fiance and to keep her hands off.

Minor confusion about Clara's age and her own father's (Martin Kildare) protestations put a damper on the engagement, but there is a happy ending. And it is mother Margaret's decision about Clara's future that sets the play apart and brings it to a most remarkable and joyous conclusion.

The entire ensemble is superb under Kent Nicholson's meticulous direction. Cohenour brilliantly makes Margaret a three dimensional woman and Mackey is luminescent and endearing at every turn. Burnham as Fabrizio has made this role totally his own since 2006 when he first essayed it in the National Tour. He is enjoying himself immensely and letting his sense of humor infuse Fabrizio's clumsiness.

Neil Patel has done a lovely job with set design incorporating columns and backwall windows with paneling to adjust the infiltration of light. Leah Piehl's costumes are period efficient. Guettel's music is so delicately beautiful that I am not ashamed to admit it moved me to tears more than once. A passionately engrossing evening for lovers, friends and for anyone who believes in the value of love.

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Don Grigware Don Grigware is an Ovation nominated actor and writer whose contributions to theatre through the years have included 6 years as theatre editor of NoHoLA, a contributor to LA Stage Magazine and currently on his own website:

Don hails from Holyoke, Massachusetts and holds two Masters Degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in Education and Bilingual Studies. He is a teacher of foreign language and ESL.

Don is in his fifth year with BWW, currently serving as Senior Editor of the Los Angeles Page.

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