The Light in the Piazza

The Light in the Piazza

The Light in the Piazza
Book by Craig Lucas
Music and Lyrics by Adam Guettal
Directed by Aradhana Tiwari
Starring Laura Hodos, Jennafer Newberry, Robert Johnston, and Stephan Jones
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

What better place to find love than in post war Florence? Margaret Johnson (Hodos) takes her daughter Clara (Newberry) to visit in 1953; it should have been a second honeymoon with hubby Roy (Mark Edward Smith) but he’s too busy running Big Tobacco to take any interest in his wife. Instead, Clara falls for gawky Fabrizio Naccarelli (Johnston). Mom is horrified and it’s not just that Fabrizio’s a local, but mom has doubts about the mental state of her daughter. I didn’t see anything that odd, but we know mother always knows best. Sure, Clara’s been sheltered and is totally naive about men, but Fabrizio seems decent and they do all the things young lovers do – they “accidentally” meet, they sneak off, and there’s even a little 3rd base action. Their romance is rocky, but Signor Naccarelli (Jones) runs interference for the kids and in the end love triumphs. More importantly, maybe Clara’s doctor didn’t really know what he was talking about. Mistakes were made, but they can be rectified.

The romance is light and fluffy, the production fast yet minimalist with a large chorus providing street ambience as well as a moving art gallery. The sound track tends toward an Avant-gard sound reminiscent of Stephen Sondheim imitating Phillip Glass, but there are occasions where melody appears and always to good effect. Hodos’ “Dividing Day” is the highlight of the show, she’s agonizing over her daughter’s future and her own perceptions, and it’s truly moving. Mr. Johnson gets a few operatic moments including “Il Mondo Era Vuoto” he’s good but sometimes wobbly on the high notes. Ms. Newberry breaks your heart with “Clara’s Interlude” but her show stopper is “Clara’s Tirade”: She may be from North Carolina, but her emotions fit right in with the excitable Naccarelli clan. There are no complicated plot points here, just a simple love story coupled with a bit of cross cultural understanding.

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