L'Ultima Notte di Salome (The Last Night of Salome)
by Emanuele Vacchetto
directed by Maria Luisa Bigali with Ramiro Sandoval & Benedetta Baglioni
"L'ultima notte di Salomè" (The Last Night of Salome), a black comedy by Emanuele Vacchetto, evokes the mythic Fifties, the period of la dolce vita, Fellini and Callas, the star system in Italy, and magical nights at the theater before the advent of television. The play is a duet for two women--a famous actress and a middle-aged barkeeper--who meet on a stormy evening in a seedy bar in Rome, where they bond over booze and shared secrets. The play comes to La MaMa E.T.C. from Istituto di Studi dello Spettacolo-Teatro Studio of Rome, and will be performed in Italian with English supertitles. Directed by Maria Luisa Bigai, this is the play's American premiere. It's way past closing time in a dirty, rundown bar owned by Daisy, an irritable, middle-aged woman whose only amusement that evening has been insulting a stone drunk man--her husband--who has passed out at a table. Outside, it's pouring rain. A glamorous woman enters in a distracted state of mind. She turns out to be the celebrated actress Veronica Lopez, famous for her roles as the femme fatale, especially Salome in Oscar Wilde's play of the same name. By force of her star's personality, plus some cocaine and a shared bottle of booze, Veronica slyly insinuates herself into Daisy's confidence. The two women bond over their shared disappointment with their deadbeat husbands--Daisy's is an alcoholic barkeep; Veronica's is a famous film director. It is all brazenly played out within earshot of Daisy's semi-conscious mate, and we get a fiery picture of the contrasting temperaments of two women who've been wronged. Daisy, who was never able to pursue her dream of being an actress, re-enacts a monologue she once performed at her Dad's lodge. Veronica enacts bits of her recent performance as Salome . Ultimately, we learn that life imitates art in this actress. The piece stars Lydia Biondi as the tavern owner and Carla Cassola as the actress. Ms. Biondi has been seen in NY as a performer with Mummenschanz Mime and Masks Company. Ms. Cassola is a leading practitioner of the Grotowsky method in Italy, where she has worked with the country's major directors in film, theater and TV. Italian critics have praised the play as an excellent interpretation by two diverse performers who find perfect harmony and complicity in their acting. Messagero called it "an enjoyable piece that mixes truth and fiction, the ridiculous and the surreal, making the audience laugh through clenched teeth." Il Tempo praised its "irresistible fascination," noting that "the tight rhythm of the dialog, two full-bodied protagonists (the hilarious Lydia Biondi and the unsettling Carla Cassola) and the light touch of the playwright convince the audience."
3/9/2006 at 8:00pm