Theater Review: Italian American Reconciliation–a smashing close to a successful season

May 19, 2010

By Edith McCauley
Theater Critic

Artists’ Ensemble has chosen an outstanding work for their current show. Although John Patrick Shanley is of Irish heritage, his ability to write with great authenticity of the Italian-American community is amazing. On reading the program and discovering that he had won an Oscar for the screenplay for Moonstruck, I knew we had an evening of great fun. Artists’ Ensemble chooses plays that work for the director and cast, and Italian American Reconciliation does just that.

A convoluted love story much like that of Moonstruck, it moves at a breakneck speed, and the actors equal the pacing. Lance A. Retallick is Aldo. His characterization never falters. A city Italian with an accent and pork pie hat, his identity carries us from his opening monologue that introduces us to the plot to his closing remarks that end the production. He literally centers the show.

David A. Gingerich is his friend, Huey. Still suffering from the trauma of a divorce after three years, he is absolutely loony. Dressed in a bizarre outfit supposedly that of a poet from the Middle Ages, he, too, gives us an outstanding performance. Teresa (Erin Spears) is his current love, and she, too, plays her part well. To continue the relationship or not, that is the question. Katie Maringer as the “evil” Janice, Huey’s former wife, slowly, but emphatically, reveals her true identity. Her scenes with Aldo and Huey are the highlights of the evening.

It is so good to see Jan Bacino on stage again. Her many talents that include design display her diversity, but she is a true actress. As Aunt May, she represents the adult, and her advice to the younger characters is based on life experience. In his director’s notes, Richard Raether quotes one of her memorable lines, “Marriage is in trouble. But trouble ain’t the worst thing.”

Raether obviously loves this play, and it shows in every scene. He says, “…we come and meet these fascinating characters, we become involved in the lives for two hours, we laugh at their folly, empathize with their pain, and share in their joy.” He says it so well.

Italian American Reconciliation ends another successful season—but not quite. Last year’s smash, Radio Gals, will play again this summer, July 2-11. The original cast returns for this midsummer treat. Another bit of good news—subscriptions are now available for the 2010-2011 season, and by purchasing your tickets now, you can buy discount tickets for Radio Gals for $23. You can fax your order to (815) 877-7905 or call the box office at (815) 877-7905. Use the same numbers for tickets to the current show, which runs through May 30 at Rockford College’s Cheek Theatre.

I enjoyed every minute from my brief improv with Retallick to the final bows—definitely a must see!!!

From the May 19-25, 2010 issue

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