Playing in the intimate black box space of the Firehall Theatre at TIP, Farren Timoteo’s one-man show Made in Italy, a production from Western Canada Theatre, is a suitably personal story which draws the audience into the world of the playwright’s characters. Timoteo’s show not only succeeds on the emotional front but also as a duly entertaining performance piece in its own right, as directed by Daryl Cloran, who also happens to be the artistic director of the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, AB. Telling the story of an Italian-Canadian teenager’s struggle to fit in while growing up in 1970s Alberta, Made in Italy communicates equally the trials and humor of such an experience.
Beginning with the appearance of Salvatore, a first-generation immigrant of the Mantini family, the values which are to become central in Timoteo’s show are presented. He speaks of the dining table as the most important piece of furniture in the home, since all of the family gathers there for meals. The symbolic significance of the table is further underscored by Salvatore’s remark that it is the first item he bought in Canada, thus foreshadowing its central role (both literal and figurative) throughout the play. The focus, however, eventually falls on Salvatore’s Canadian-raised son Francesco, who only feels embarrassment and resentment at his heritage which separates him from other youth. By going through many dramatic and rough experiences, including an inspiring visit to the old country, Francesco eventually comes to embrace both his Italian identity and the importance of family.
It is the highly energetic performance of Timoteo himself which gives Made in Italy its life. As a performer, Timoteo is equally talented as a dancer, singer, and actor. Switching seamlessly between personas and accents both Italian and Canadian, each character is portrayed vividly. Salvatore charms with his lessons on traditional customs and recounting of his journey to Canada, while Francesco is very relatable as a youth who is unappreciative of his cultural heritage and desiring nothing more than to it in with his peers. Francesco’s quirky paternal aunts and uncles also provide many funny moments. Apart from the acting, Francesco’s song and dance sequences are equally a delight to watch. The Italian songs sung at the behest of his father and relatives, as well as his attempt to emulate Rocky Balboa through an exceptional work-out routine are highlights on this front.
Yet it is not merely entertainment which Made in Italy seeks to impart onto its audience, but also a primer on how important it is to make time for one’s family and acknowledge the sacrifices made by one’s parents that are often unnoticed. In this respect, there too are touching instances: Salvatore’s stating of his desire to raise Francesco into a good man after the untimely death of his wife and lamenting of the dinners and gatherings at the table as “the best days of my life” are particularly demonstrative of the heart underlying the script. This emphasis on family, along with Francesco’s struggle to accept his identity as a member of the Mantini family, provide the show with its emotional heft alongside the theatrical.
The set by Cory Sincennes, featuring a long wooden table at the center and cabinets filled with wine and food ingredients, gives the perfect appearance of a typical household dining room. Sound design by Mishelle Cutler is also on point for both music and object sounds.
Made in Italy runs until July 28 in the Firehall Theatre at the 1000 Islands Playhouse in Gananoque, ON.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.