‘Night Lights’ will pioneer the new genre of ‘The Drive-In Stage.’


Dario D’Ambrosi, an Italian auteur of theater and film, has created an original genre of live performance to be called “The Drive-In Stage” and will inaugurate it July 6, 7 and 8, 2009 with the world premiere of his hour-long thriller, “Night Lights.”

Pathological Theater Company, Inc. will present this site-specific performance for three performances only on the block between Washington Street between Spring Street and Canal Street in Manhattan’s SoHo district.

The performance will be free for an audience that will be limited to 40 spectators each night. They will view the live action from within parked cars, listening with headsets. Theatergoers can drive their own cars (parking is free on the set!) or sit in passenger sedans to be provided by a sponsor.

NIGHT LIGHTS- Jarde Jacobs and Celeste Moratti. Photo by Jonathan Slaff

Reservations will be accepted on a first come, first served basis. Audience members may call the show’s reservation line at 347-446-1363 or send an email from the show’s website, www.nightlightsplay.com. No standing room will be offered.

“Night Lights” depicts a secretive rendezvous in an urban parking lot between a male ex-convict who is generously tattooed and a female university professor whose body is mysteriously scarred. Having connected through an Internet site, they appear to be meeting for anonymous sex. They are polite and respectful to each other, but each reveals a dangerous unpredictability.

The woman is mentally wounded and emotionally numb from having been raped; she cannot break through to her feelings, even by doing herself bodily harm. The man seeks sex as a substitute for the power he felt by holding lives at bay during an armed robbery. Both have learned that the only real excitement in life is when violence is facing you. Although they achieve a keen understanding of each other, tragedy intervenes in an unexpected way.

Director Dario D’Ambrosi on location in DUMBO, Brooklyn, May 17, 2005 during filming of his The Pathological Passion of The Christ.

The relationship between the Woman and the Man in “Night Lights” also breaks ground for D’Ambrosi in the sense that his plays have never before contained the potential for real erotic adventure or romance. The protagonist has usually been a solitary sufferer. In a preface to this play, D’Ambrosi writes, “After discovering two great writers, A. Artaud and G, Battaille, I have always wanted to tackle the subject of eroticism. I have been dealing with mental diseases for more than 25 years, working with young people suffering from mental illnesses. My research work has made me realize there is a strong connection between mental illnesses and the bounds that society imposes on the personal freedom to express oneself through sex. We can say eroticism is a celebration of life up until death. There is, however, a connection between death and sexual excitement – .In this show, it is interesting to investigate what the social prohibition with regard to eroticism might be, and where, on the other hand, a sick mind can overstep the mark and fall into what we call ‘perversion,’ but then we realize it is just a fantasy if not total freedom to express one’s physicality.” He concludes, “I don’t mean to be provocative, but to tackle the theme of eroticism with great care, as I did in my previous shows.”

Celeste Moratti (Woman, Translator) was born and raised in Milan, Italy, and came to New York in 2002 to enroll in the Stella Adler Conservatory program, graduating in 2005. She played the title role in “Days of Antonio,” written and directed by Dario D’Ambrosi at La MaMa in 2007 and re-created the role for a filmed version of the play, which was directed by D’Ambrosi in Calabria, Italy last month. She also appeared in D’Ambrosi’s ensemble play, “Crazy Sound,” at La MaMa in 2006. Her New York acting credits also include Elena in “The Theory of Color” at The Medicine Show Theatre and The Woman in Jean Cocteau’s “The Human Voice” at Inverted Foot Stage. Her Italian credits include The Wife in Mamet’s “Edmond,” Mme. Dalancour in Carlo Goldoni’s “Il Burbero Benefico,” Viola in “Twelfth Night” and Young William Shakespeare in Anthony Burgess’ “Will.” She has toured Italy in “Crazy Sound” and in Euripides’ “Medea,” in which she played the title role. She has acted leading roles in the feature films “My Mother’s Fairy Tales,” directed by Paola Romagnani, and “L’uomo gallo,” directed by Dario D’ambrosi. From 2005 to 2007 she was a company member of the American Mime Theatre directed by Paul Curtis. In 2008, she became a company member at the Hyperion Theatre in NYC.

Jarde Jacobs (Man) performed in the ensemble of the Public Theater’s “Mother Courage,” directed by George C. Wolfe. He earned an MFA from Rutgers. His films include “The Adventures of Umbweki” (2009), “God Fly” (2009) and “Eliza” (2008).


The NY Times’ D.J.R. Bruckner has written, “Any piece by Mr. D’Ambrosi is about each member of the audience. A viewer who surrenders disbelief for a moment will be carried away in an unimaginable world of chaos, wit, bewilderment, mirth, anger, disgust and a kind of sweet sadness, and will leave it with a sense of relief and loss.” In the ’80s and ’90s, Dario D’Ambrosi marched irresistibly into the forefront of Italy’s theatrical ambassadors, a cohort led by Pirandello, DiFilippo and Dario Fo. In 1994, he received the equivalent of a Tony Award in his country: a prize for lifetime achievement in the theater from the Instituto del Drama Italiano. D’Ambrosi first performed at La MaMa 27 years ago and has been in residence there nearly every year thereafter. In the US, he has also performed at Lincoln Center, Chicago’s Organic Theatre, Cleveland’s Public Theater and Los Angeles’ Stages Theatre, among others.

Rosette Lamont wrote in Theater Week, “The yearly appearance of the Italian writer/performer Dario D’Ambrosi at La MaMa is cause for celebration.” In a definitive essay, she traced D’Ambrosi’s aesthetic to his close study of Antonin Artaud and Georges Bataille. Critic Randy Gener, writing in The New York Theatre Wire, stated “his theater is a form of social realism that is also an idee fixe. With unusual openness and frankness, his theatrical aesthetic openly embraces the extremity of their forms, emotions and ideas, and it is, thus, called teatro patologico.”

D’Ambrosi’s Teatro al Parco in Rome is currently located in a children’s psychiatric hospital. He formed the Gruppo Teatrale Dario D’Ambrosi (since renamed Teatro Patalogico) in Italy in 1979.

Celeste Moratti as Antonio in Days of Antonio at La MaMa, 2007. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

D’Ambrosi’s La MaMa productions also include a wide variety of notable works. “Cose Da Pazzi (Mad Things Out of This World)” (1995) was a play on useless technical theories of the psychiatrists and the deep state of alienation in which the psychiatric patient lives. “La Trota (The Trout)” had its American premiere at La MaMa in 1986 and was revived in 1997. In this play an old man, trapped by his fetishist acts, turns the trout he has purchased for dinner into a love symbol and the object of an inevitably doomed passion for life. “My Kingdom for a Horse (Un rengo per il mio cavallo)” (1996) was inspired by “Richard III.” D’Ambrosi portrayed Shakespeare’s villain as a schizophrenic fetus trapped in internal dialogue with his unloving mother. Ben Brantley (New York Times) hailed the production as a remarkable interpretation that “taps right into primal terrain most of us avoid exploring.”

In 1998, D’Ambrosi adapted the Peter Pan story into “The Dis-Adventures of Peter Pan vs. Capitan Maledetto” which critic Randy Gener, writing in The New York Theatre Wire, called “the most utterly charming of D’Ambrosi’s allegorical explorations of the irrational,” warning “You’d be a fool to miss it.” In 2000, D’Ambrosi celebrated 20 years of productions at La MaMa with a serial retrospective with three of his most singular plays: “All Are Not Here (Tutti Non Ci Sonno)” (1980, 1989), a solo performance in which an inmate from a psychiatric ward is victimized by neglect in the outside world, “Frustration (Frustra-Azioni)” (1994), a play on a butcher’s psychotic obsessions, and “The Prince of Madness” (1993), a story of a crippled man selling human beings who in the end are revealed to be his family. “Nemico Mio” (1988, revived 2003) was a maverick Vladimir-and-Estragon-type play in which two inmates of a psychiatric hospital, one speaking and one mute, engage in elaborate, poetic fantasies of being at the beach.

In December, 2007, he revived his “Days of Antonio” (originally performed at La MaMa in 1981), a play based on the real incident of an insane boy who had been raised in a henhouse. Celeste Moratti starred in that play and in its subsequent film rendition, which has recently been completed in Italy. The New York Times (Jason Zinoman) credited her with “a boldly feral performance of a boy stuck between the worlds of the sane and the mentally ill and the human and the animal.”

Mr. D’Ambrosi also sustains a prolific acting career. He played the Clown in Julie Taymor’s film version of “Titus Andronicus” (1999) with Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange. He is director and co-author of “The Buzzing of Flies” (2003), a Hera International film produced by Gianfranco Piccioli, with Lorenzo Alessandri and Greta Schacchi (the latter co-starred with Harrison Ford in “Presumed Innocent”). In 2005, he was seen in “Ballet of War,” about the clandestine immigration of Albanian people into Italy. But his most well known film appearance may be as the Roman Soldier who mercilessly whipped Jesus in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” The villainous part caused strangers to glare at him scornfully on the streets of Rome while the film was playing. Zachary Pincus-Roth, writing in the New York Times, reported that Mr. D’Ambrosio says he still has dreams in which Jesus – with the face of Mel Gibson – assures him that it was all worth it. The entire experience ultimately inspired him to create “The Pathological Passion of the Christ” (2004), which was based on the idea that many of Jesus’ contemporaries considered him insane.

D’Ambrosi is about to open a new venue in Rome which will be a home for his resident company of professional actors and his drama school for psychiatric patients. Its productions will include collaborations from all over the world and it will be an opportunity for D’Ambrosi to tighten his bond with Ellen Stewart, Founder and Artistic Director of La MaMa.

Performances are July 6, 7, and 8, 2009 at 9:00 pm (three performances only) at Washington Street between Spring Street and Canal Street, SoHo, Manhattan, NY. (Subway: 1 to Canal Street.) Admission is free, however seating is limited to 40 people per night and there will be no standing room. The info/reservations line is 347-446-1363 and the show’s website is www.nightlightsplay.com.