By Lucia Frangione
Directed by Morris Ertman Scenery & Lighting: Kevin McAllister Costumes: Rebekka Sorensen Stage Manager: Allen Thompson Set Construction: Kerry Vandergriend Sound Consultation & Construction: Noah Drew
Reviewer: Ed Farolan
The World Premiere of Lucia Frangione's Espresso received a standing ovation on opening night last January 24th. Starring Todd Thomson and award winning playwright Lucia Frangione, the play is based on an idea ten years ago when she stood beside her father's hospital bed, his chest broken open and his heart lacerated, from falling asleep at the wheel.
Frangione, also a Jesse nominated actor, plays three women in this play: the estranged daughter, Rosa; her step-mother, Gisella, her father's second wife; and Nona, her grandmother. Jesse-nominated actor Todd Thomson plays the part of Amante, which means "lover" in Italian, the spiritual lover of Rosa, who dialogues with her in verses taken from the Bible's Song of Songs. Frangione makes it obvious to the audience that Amante is Jesus Christ, although in her notes she says that Amante is a "spiritual energy who comes to me in times of lneliness and grief...a hormonal flush, a chemical imbalance...maybe he's Jesus."
What is confusing particularly in the first act is trying to identify the characters. The way the play is presented is in story form. Frangione plays Rosa who narrates the story, and then she transforms herself into the characters of the play. Thomson does the same. He narrates, then plays not only the part of Amante, and other male roles, including Vito, Rosa's father, and Tony, Rosa's fiancee, but also Gisella and Nona, which further confuses the audience. Likewise, Frangione plays male roles.
But this is an actor's play, and the excellence in acting by Frangione and Thomson made up for this confusion. We get settled down in the second act, we get to know the multiple characters played by the actors, and the story gets interesting.
Director Morris Ertman, in his notes, found it "daunting and exhilarating" to direct this play. Artistic Director Ron Reed comments: "This is a fiercely literate script, courageous and wonderfully funny...the play's specificity lends it the universality that is common to real art."
Producer Scott Campbell's idea of giving free espressos to us on opening night helped us keep alert as we watched the actors change roles faster than one could say "oh, who is it this time".
2003, Ed Farolan