The Italian American Theatre of Chicago presented “Vispetta” in the Community Center at Casa Italia in March. Adapted by Colleen Mraz from traditional 16th-century commedia dell’arte, the farce followed the misadventures of two star-crossed lovers, their clueless parents and their wily servant, Vispetta. True to its commedia roots, the principal actors wore masks and the humor was “slapstick,” a term that refers to a prop used in carnevale revels in Renaissance Venice.
A medley of Italian songs performed by Joyce Marcheschi Westphal and Leonard Palombi greeted guests as they enjoyed wine and stuzzichini before a pizza dinner. The performance was prefaced by a brief history of commedia by Tempest Wisdom, capocomico of the University of Chicago’s commedia troupe, whose attempts to “educate” the audience were undermined by the antics of the zanni, or clowns, who made sure the company’s dramaturg didn’t take herself too seriously.
Directed by Colleen Mraz and Jessica Mitolo of Chicago’s Second City Training Center, the play featured Kelsey Erhart in the title role; Nicole Stull and Zach Hacker as the young lovers, Giacinta and Ottavio; and Beverly Coscarelli and Vincent Dore as the hapless parents, Narcisa and Gerolamo.
The proceeds from the sold-out evening will support the production of the winning play from the IATC’s first annual playwriting competition. The contest received 54 submissions from around the world. Winners will be announced on the IATC website in June 2018. (italianamericantheatreofchicago.com)