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Reviewed by Dina Del Bucchia
A wonderful misconception, ripe for constant and cutting satire is that love is serious business. It’s not. Love is a farce that tricks people into thinking it’s serious business, when in fact it’s very funny. It’s a joke with intricate emotional twists that pulse and pop until the punch line cracks you upside the face.
Steve Galluccio’s play In Piazza San Domenico shows us what a mistake it is to take our emotions too seriously. Real life is not a romantic comedy showering characters in candy and roses and ending in sexy results. It’s a ridiculous adventure that involves slapstick and coarse jokes and fun lies and strange pairings and ends in sexy results.
Set in Napoli of 1952, the story has all the elements of modern television. Like a fine reality show Galluccio’s characters make and break alliances, withhold their true feelings and strike their opponents and lovers where it hurts. With all the antics and sassy, yet more sophisticated, scheming of teen television dramas with none of the product placement Piazza draws out the inherent ridiculousness in family and relationships. Watch your back, Gossip Girl.
Though they’re still years away from TMZ and Tumblrs Galluccio’s characters occupy their time in classic fashion, while other people’s private business functions as their primary entertainment. The piazza becomes a living breathing tabloid. Smack talk and conjecture bounce off buildings and into the ears of those who’ll spread the word. Homes shudder with gossip that threatens to make mothers cringe and connive, wives cheat on their husbands and ex-fiancés seek revenge sex. And these aren’t mere threats, but neither do plans work out quite as imagined.
Galluccio riffs on male and female and Italian stereotypes with wit and a little camp. He allows men saturated in machismo to embarrass themselves in front of headstrong, stubborn women. The sign of a great comedy is that no one is spared and thankfully, none of his characters is let off the hook.
Ingénue Carmelina, finished with her sweet but odd fiancé Guido, seeks out a new prospective husband, but she isn’t innocence personified and she doesn’t take no for an answer. Guido fools himself into believing the aforementioned revenge tryst will solve his problems, and not create new ones. As with any Italian family drama, Carmelina’s mother Isabella plays the mama playing the martyr, playing all angles, until she realizes that she needs to play nice with people in order to have a life. Tonino, the cad with no brains or balls, tries to intervene in everyone’s lives, all the while leaving his wife Marisa to her own devices. She’s a clear favourite, a callous, yet passionate woman who injects the story with spice, a saucy arrabbiata.
After everyone’s created a hurricane of their own lives, ripped apart relationships with lies and betrayals, another natural disaster forces them together. An earthquake booms through their drama, the only possible way to briefly silence a noisy group of Italians trying to outtalk each other. Forced together in the aftermath, shattered and rattled, they pick up their busted hearts and through the final jabs and jokes find ways to move on, come together and live their imperfect lives. In Piazza San Domenico shelters a love that is strange and wild and deeply amusing.