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Italian play brings Romance to DPAC

Maureen Mullen | Friday, April 28, 2006

The Department of Romance Languages and Literatures will present a student performance of “Miseria e Nobilta” (“Misery and Nobility”) that will run both Friday and Saturday night in the Philbin Studio Theatre.

Undergraduate students enrolled in the two-credit Italian theatre course will perform the show entirely in Italian. The play, directed by Professors Colleen Ryan-Scheutz and Jen Testa, presents an illustration of life within Italian social classes of the late 19th century.

Originally written in 1888 by Eduardo Scarpetta, the famous Italian comedic actor and master of the slapstick farce, the story was made into a film featuring the young Sophia Loren in 1954.

The tales chronicle life with the likable scatterbrain, Felice Sciosciammocca. As an impoverished and unemployed man, Felice is convinced to masquerade with the rest of his family as nobility. Eugenio, a young noble, requests Felice’s disguise, for Eugenio is in love with the beautiful ballerina, Gemma. But Gemma is not noble and Eugenio’s family would not consent to such a marriage.

Promising payment, Eugenio requests of Felice that he and his family pose as Eugenio’s relatives in order to get Gemma’s family’s approval for a marriage. Felice accepts the proposal and proceeds to don both the attire as well as the attitude of a noble.

As their ruse plays out, and as the scam turns quickly into an utter debacle, the audience is treated to a hilarious characterization of nobility and some surprising revelations that expose prejudices about social classes. Indeed, audiences are in for quite an entertaining evening as they observe Felice and the other characters’ amusing antics.

The cast includes Michael Subialka (Felice), Jenna Olson (Louisella), Derrick Testa (Eugenio), Patricia Alvarez (Gemma) and Jason Wittenbach (Gaetano).

Overall, every cast member gives a very respectable performance. The fact that the play is performed entirely in Italian only adds to the impressive and admirable acting.

The language is perhaps what is most interesting and most remarkable about the show. After all, most of the cast members only began studying Italian upon beginning their undergraduate careers at Notre Dame. With only a handful of semesters of Italian under most of their belts, the students deliver a very professional high-quality performance. Their speech is fluid, and their accents well developed – in short, it is far better than to be expected from students who have taken only a few semesters of the language. For audience members familiar with Italian, the performance is only that much more enjoyable.

But that’s not to say that the play is meant only for those who have studied Italian. In the program, the action of each scene is detailed very thoroughly. It is entirely possible to have no knowledge of the Italian language and attend the performance.

The characters are incredibly animated, gesture a great deal and convey the events of the play through not only their words but also their body language – making the show something that everyone can truly enjoy.

Miseria e Nobilta’ will be performed twice both days of its scheduled run. Shows are set to begin at 6pm and then again at 9pm on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $7 for faculty and staff, $7 for seniors and $5 for all students.