Seven Angels Theatre, Waterbury: Childhood memories are lasting. For writer Carl Morelli, the memories are as dear as they are difficult in Charles Messina’s play A Room of My Own. If the title rings familiar it’s probably because of Virginia Woolf’s famous work A Room of One’s Own. In that masterful work, she maintains that writers (especially females) need money and a room of one’s own. Messina has tapped into that situation because he remembers vividly how his passionate Italian-American family was always short on cash and how desperately he wanted a room of his own. The comedy/drama is semi-autobiographical.
Times were hard in the Morelli Greenwich Village tenement apartment. In this cluttered and ill kept space, everyone seems to be on top of each other in this excellent Seven Angels production. Be forewarned, the subject matter is raw and the language is heavily laced with obscenities. Set in the 1970s, the action takes place just before Christmas. Young Carl has asked Santa for an Atari video game, which his mom, Dotty Morelli, plans on swiping since she doesn’t have the money for it. She also doesn’t have the money for his tuition at the Catholic school he attends; so she foul mouths the nuns as well as just about everyone else.
Dotty is the bossy matriarch of her small family. She talks tough, and has some serious money problems that she keeps from the rest of her family, whom she loves. Her husband Peter is unemployed, loves to cook, and has a problem with flatulence. He doesn’t speak to his sister, Aunt Jean, who inherited the family’s money and supposedly doesn’t share. Uncle Jackie, Dotty’s gay brother lives in the apartment upstairs. He has quite a temper and opens the play yelling in the hallway and entering the Morelli apartment carrying a hammer, which he wants to use on a neighbor. Jeannie is the teenage daughter who seems to be following in her fast talking foul-mouthed mother’s footsteps, and Little Carl takes it all in as the child who can swear as well as the rest of them, but has hopes and dreams of making something of himself. Adult Carl is at his typewriter, trying to write his past in a better light, but that’s not easy.
Here’s a play that is not a slice, but a hunk of life when times were bad. It couldn’t be better directed since it is directed by the playwright Charles Messina, himself. The acting is absolutely superb. Some of the actors originated the roles they play here in the Off-Broadway production. Michael Lombardi as the adult Carl and narrator of the story is especially good at stepping in and out of the action as he relives his past experiences and even converses with his young alter ego. Joli Tribuzio delivers a firecracker performance that keeps crackling and popping at accelerated speeds. She was featured in the New York production and has also performed in Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding.
John Tammaro as Peter the stubborn Italian who won’t speak to his sister passes plenty of humor in his performance. He too performed in the New York run. David Valcin as Uncle Jackie has plenty of stage and television experience. He tempers his rough and ready role with tender affection. Julia Macchio plays the hot-to-trot teenage daughter with gusto and Christian Michael Camporin is almost too good to be true, but he is very real. This young actor has already played on Broadway in Matilda as well as in Finding Neverland. That he can spout off some harsh language so naturally is quite a feat. The kid is a natural. While the role of Aunt Jean will be played by Liza Vann, Semina DeLaurentis played the role from Sept. 22 to 25. She is the quintessential Italian sister.
Brian Dudkiewicz’s set design, Matt Guminski’s lighting, Matt Martin’s sound and Catherine Siracusa’s costumes emphasized reality. Playing through Oct. 16, the box office is: 203-757-4676.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]