It’s been eight years since Italy’s renowned Piccolo Teatro di Milano last visited Chicago, so drama fans will want to take note: the company is returning for the American premiere of “Inner Voices,” taking place June 25-29 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Courtyard Theater.
If Piccolo Teatro’s return has been a long time coming, this production (to be staged in Italian) has been even longer in the making. Presented in conjunction with the Italian Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago, “Inner Voices” dates to 1948. It’s the work of Eduardo De Filippo, one of Italy’s most translated writers, and investigates perceptions of morality amidst an economically devastated post-World War II landscape.
“For the Piccolo to reach out after having had such a good experience before, we’re thrilled to welcome them back,” said Criss Henderson, Executive Director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, which hosted the company during its 2005 visit. “We’re hoping theater audiences here and across the city will join us in welcoming them back. Piccolo is one of the most important acting companies in the world.”
As Henderson points out, American audiences may not have much experience with De Filippo, but his name belongs with theater’s giants. The son of Eduardo Scarpetta — considered the greatest actor-writer-director and Neapolitan comedian of the late 19th Century — De Filippo established himself as a formidable actor and writer in his own right, even though his father wasn’t around to raise him. De Filippo was born out of wedlock and Scarpetta, who nurtured his drama training, insisted Eduardo call him “uncle” instead of “father.”
“Inner Voices” — written by De Filippo in a week of creative fury — has another Italian luminary behind it: Toni Servillo. One of Europe’s most popular actors and directors, Servillo will tackle those dual roles in the Chicago production. He has worked with major Italian and European film directors, and has directed not only the plays of De Filippo, Pirandello and Moliere, but also operas by Mozart, Rossini and Beethoven.
Speaking to ItalyInUs2013.org (a website sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Italian embassy in Washington D.C.), Servillo said: “‘Inner Voices’ belongs, to my mind, among the masterpieces of Eduardo’s maturity, of the Eduardo who began to write and create his plays after the wonderful period previous to the war.”
Servillo adds: “The play starts, with the dramas of the post-war period, a moral question that is unfortunately still central to social life in our country. Eduardo uses popular forms of theater to speak out about the urgency of the moral dilemma. He announces it with vehemence and clarity through the character of Alberto Saporito. I feel the theater today still needs to raise the alarm.”
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the piece come from its place of origin, as only the finest Italian actors could tell it,” Henderson said. “It was like when we brought over La Comédie-Française doing Moliere’s ‘Imaginary Invalid’ in 2004: These are the best writers from these countries, with the best actors from these countries. That’s what we love to do: to take great stories, and great characters, and present them as they can only be done on stage.”
For more information on “Inner Voices,” visit chicagoshakes.com or call 312-595-5600.