Playwright: Michele Berdinis
Venue: Funky Little Theatre, 2109 Templeton Gap, Colorado Springs.
Running Time: 2 hours (includes 15 minute intermission)
Date of Performance: Friday, January 22, 2016. (World Premiere production).
If you’ve ever wondered whether it takes a huge budget and a boatload of fancy technical effects to make great theater, your problem is solved. The answer is no. Funky Little Theater has a tiny budget, a small space, and minimal resources. Despite their limitations, Funky’s current show, Italy, is proof positive that excellent theater exists in unexpected places.
I’ll start with Michele Berdinis’ script. It’s a love story, and frankly, it would make a pretty good “chick flick.” The lovers here are not new to the game; they’ve been around the block; they have loved and lost. This love story is one for the older folks. (Full disclosure. I’m one of them.) Berdinis “adult” characters, Angela (Tracy Hunziger) and William (Steve Sladaritz) are not just likable mature people. They are smart, talented, and rich in life experience. Most of all, they are genuine. These are real people we can relate to.
When Berdinis puts them together, the chemistry of their dialog is smart, witty, and compelling. We can sense their mutual attraction long before they admit it. It’s not often that the “late in life” love story is well told. Berdinis nails it.
Berdinis’ script is supported by outstanding performances from both Hunziger and Sladaritz. Tracy Hunziger makes Angela a woman who is both cautious and excited about reaching out for love. Hunziger perfectly captures both the danger of high expectations and the reluctance to commit to a new relationship. Sladaritz, for his part, could charm any woman with his British accent and wit. He’s low key, but he’s determined to convince Angela that they belong together.
|L-R Front: Steven Sladaritz, Tracy Hunziker, Nicole Goeke, Chip MacEnulty. Back, L-R: Matt Alvarado, Justin Anderson.|
As some basic plot background, Angela’s film production company has cast William as the lead in their current slasher film project. As William’s role is winding down, he makes a play for Angela. Angela’s daughter Diana (played with enthusiasm by Nicole Goeke) is going through a difficult breakup from her boyfriend Tony (Matt Alvarado as the cold cad). Diana’s emotional distress makes it difficult for Angela to share her own new relationship with her daughter. She keeps it a secret and predictably, disaster ensues. Diana blows up when she walks in on William in her mother’s home, and incidentally, in bunny slippers, shorts and a bathrobe.
|Italian Family Discussion. L-R Tracy Hunziker, Nicole Goeke, Matt Alvarado.|
That makes two things Berdinis’ script gets right; 1) the late in life love story, and 2) the ugly reality of justifying that relationship to angry adult children. It’s a fairly common conflict; adult kids reject relationships that conflict with their memories of their natural parents. Berdinis plays out both the love story and the family conflict with a confidence that suggests she has been down this road herself.
Chip MacEnulty (George) and Justin Anderson (Sam/TV Director) capably prop up the story in secondary roles. MacEnulty, however, is charmingly intoxicated as he attempts to bring some peace to the chaos with a kitchen knife. Not to worry. No actors have been harmed in bringing Italy to life on the Funky stage.
Italy is a place in Europe. Italy is also a state of mind. It’s where Angela and William find love, and where precious moments are created to last forever. Italy is smart, funny, and compelling in the hands of Michele Berdinis and Director Chris Medina create a corner of the world a continent away. To classify it as the live theater equivalent of a chick flick would be unfair, as Italy appeals to nearly everyone.
Italy closes on January 30, so you still have time to get a ticket. You don’t want to miss this one. Even if you don’t like lasagna or spaghetti, Italy will remind you that sometimes love happens when, and where, you least expect it.
There is adult language and some adult situations in Italy. Exercise discretion with preteens.
There is ample free parking at the Funky Little Theater strip mall, and on surrounding streets. Concessions are available and can be consumed in the theater.
Berdinis’ British references are “spot on,” including one to Tesco’s. I suspect she has either spent some time in the UK, or knows someone else who has.
On a personal note:
1. Here’s an observation. It’s personal, not universal. My sense, however, is that despite what they will tell you, most guys like “chick flicks.” My wife Roxie asked me to watch one her favorites recently: Love, Actually. She has followed me all over Colorado to see all manner of theater productions, so I couldn’t say “no thanks” to a chick flick. I had low expectations, which were wildly exceeded in the first five minutes of the film. I loved it, actually. Pun intended.
All of which is to say that you ladies should drag your husband, boyfriend, date, or any significant other to Italy. The appeal is universal. Trust me.
2. Like the character Angela, both Roxie and I have lost spouses. Those losses are devastating; the grief never goes away. Still, we have both found love again. Thanks, Ms. Berdinis and Funky for telling a story that has a great deal of personal meaning to both of us.
Photo Credit: Funky Little Theater Company
PRE/POST SHOW DINING RECOMMENDATION:
Looking for some good Italian food to enhance your experience at Italy? Try Rocco’s.
We didn’t actually eat at Rocco’s before or after the show (we had leftover Chinese from China Village). But we have eaten there before, and recommend it. It’s at the northeast corner of Maizeland and Academy (3802 Maizeland for your GPS), in the structure that used to be Steaksmith. Menu here. We have theater friends from Denver, and when they’re in the area, this is one of their favorite pre show spots.
Director: Chris Medina
Assistant Directors: Dylan McClintock & Monica Erck
Sound Design: Will Sobolik
Costume Design: Delaney Hallauer
Stage Manager: Luke Schoenemann
Angela: Tracy Hunziker
William: Steve Sladaritz
George: Chip MacEnulty
Diana: Nicole Goeke
Sam/TV Director: Justin Anderson
Tony/Billy: Matt Alvarado
Waitress: Monica Erck