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Love, 'Italian American' Style 

7:30pm Thu-Sat
$10 general
Through Jan 13
Josephine Theatre
339 W. Josephine
Watching a troupe of (mostly) recent high-school graduates play divorcées and commitment-phobes is a bit like watching elementary-school students perform a prison drama, but it doesn’t take the actors of the Convergent Theatre Company too terribly long to make you forget their baby faces and enter the world of John Patrick Shanley’s Italian American Reconciliation.

The Convergent Theatre Company (or “talented group of kids” as a small and familial audience referred to them on opening night) is a team of actors who come home to San Antonio and perform during vacations from college-level dramatic training. Previous productions include Snakebit  and The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged).

Italian American Reconciliation begins with a frank discussion on the nature and mystery of the erection. Aldo (Anthony Wofford), the reciter of this profound opening monologue, is in distress. His best friend since childhood, Huey (Brendan Spieth), has taken to writing poetry and wearing a puffy blouse that prompts comparisons to “a frog in a pajama shirt” and “the Count of Monte Cristo.” Apparently, this is Huey’s way of mustering the confidence to reconcile with his gun-wielding, pet-murdering shrew of an ex-wife, Janice (an excellent Paige Clark).

You can see why Aldo’s troubled.

The list goes on. He’s also appalled that Huey is willing to leave his perfect girlfriend, Teresa (Kristy Dodson) — we know she’s perfect because it slips that she’s a better cook than Aldo’s mother — and downright terrified because Huey wants him to approach Janice in an effort to “soften her up” to the idea of reuniting.

Thing is, Janice hates Aldo. He has that effect on most women. Even Teresa, the woman upon whom he bestowed the highest compliment an Italian-mama’s-boy can give, loathes him. So it comes as no surprise when Janice fires at him, in a scene that winks deviously at Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene.

The performances are all good, but Jordan Saunders as Aunt May, a frequent customer at Teresa’s restaurant, does the show’s best work. Only in her second year at Rutgers University, Saunders believably embodies this smart-mouthed elderly woman (with help from a live purse-puppy. Working with dog actors can be so frustrating.)

On the whole, only the message of Shanley’s play is irritating. Part of Aldo’s initial speech to the audience addresses the playwrights’s intention to teach the audience something. He tells us, in the end, what that something is: “The greatest success is to be able to love.” It seems a trite lesson now, since we’ve been fed the same moral from several sources (like Moulin Rouge, which at least had the decency to tell us the dumb lesson at the beginning). Not what you might consider worth two hours of stage-trafficking, but in less able hands it could have been a disaster with a captial “D.”

I must add that the set exceeded  my expectations, especially since according to Italian’s program, these up-and-coming student actors built it themselves Aside from an unnerving claustrophobia in the living space on stage right, the set design (and the production) deserve a big “Bravo!”

Not bad for a bunch of kids.


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