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Theater For The New City Presents 'The Vatican Knows' October 3


In "The Vatican Knows (about the kidnapping of that young woman)," a new play by Mario Fratti, a young girl's fantasies about being fathered by the Pope lead to a brutal kidnapping. Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave., will present the work October 3 to 20, 2013, directed by Stephan Morrow.

Fratti's play is inspired by a New York Times article of May 15, 2012 about the kidnapping of Emanuela Orlandi, daughter of an employee of the Vatican City State. Clues to the crime have led investigators in many different directions and the unsolved case has become a mystery of particular fascination to Italians. The Times article mentioned that weeks after her disappearance, the Vatican received a phone call demanding the release of Mehmet Ali Agca, the gunman who wounded Pope John Paul II in 1981. Brooding on this, Fratti created a personal vision of a possible scenario in which terrorists plot to kidnap a young woman who lives at the Vatican to blackmail the Pope. The play savors the mystery and then looks beyond it.

Gilia Bisinella as the kidnapped girl, Ian Campbell Dunn as her fiancee. Photo by Jonathan Slaff

The play is a touching story of filial loyalty-of the girl toward the Pope. This gives the play a twin enigma: whether she was actually, the Pope's daughter and why the Vatican would react as it does to her kidnapping. Fratti endows the girl with admirable devotion to her "father" and him with admirable compassion toward her. At the same time, the playwright gives a strong voice to the kidnappers, who are multi-dimensional yet unwavering in their mission. He is also a gadfly to the Vatican, whose politics may have included an effort to smear the Pope for not being Italian.

Mario Fratti (, a prolific playwright and drama critic, was born in Italy but has been living in New York since 1963. He had a long run on Broadway with the musical "Nine" (adaptation of his play "Six Passionate Women" - Life of Fellini - film "8 1/2"). His plays have been performed in more that 700 theaters in 19 languages. Among his best known works are "Cage," "Victim," Eleonora Duse," "Mafia," "Return," Academy," "Lovers," "Sister," "Che Guevara," "Bridge," "Porno," "Passionate Women," "A.I.D.S.," "Seducers" and "Madame Senator." His book, "28 Unpredictable Plays by Mario Fratti," has been published by New York Theatre Experience. His first 20 plays were written in Italian. The next 71 were written in English. Fratti says, "I prefer the English language in theater because it is monosyllabic and it is a powerful language for the stage."

Gilia Bisinella as the kidnapped girl, Mark Ethan Toporek as Pope John Paul II. Photo by Jonathan Slaff

He enjoys working at Theater for the New City with producer/artist/director Crystal Field "because she does not know the word censorship. She always allows my approach to political dramas." It's an interesting historical footnote that Fratti was instrumental in arranging TNC's first international production, "Chile '73," at the Parma International Theater Festival. He also instigated a theater exchange between Theater for the New City and La Piccola Brigata of L'Aquila-his home town-in the 1988-1989 theater season. The L'Aquila theater company performed a realistic play by a local author at TNC and Crystal Field, Artistic Director of TNC, took over her vaudeville musical, "One Director Against His Cast," with a TNC company. About 20 years later, the 2009 Abruzzi earthquake shattered that quaint medieval walled city, including the apartment near the town square where Fratti, an expatriate, had sentimentally maintained an Italian residence. He was active in relief efforts for the town and now treasures his remaining ties to it. Theater for the New City also conducted its own fundraising effort for earthquake relief in L'Aquila.

Foreground: Jacob Cribbs Zeki as terrorist kidnapper, Behind: Ian Campbell Dunn as fiancee of the kidnapped girl. Photo by Jonathan Slaff
Fratti's recent TNC productions include "Trio" (2010), "Quartet" (2011) and a double-bill of "Three Sisters and a Priest" and Suicide Club" (2012). All three productions were directed by Stephan Morrow. The first play Morrow ever acted in as an adult was a Fratti play, "The Cage," at Manhattan Theater Club, followed closely after by "Her Voice," which was part of an evening of one-acts by Fratti at The Quaigh Theater.

Most recently, Morrow has also helmed "Triangle - The Shirtwaist Triangle Factory Fire" by J. Gilhooley at 59E59St Theaters, "Wall St. Fandango" by Murray Schisgal at The Actor's Studio and TNC, and "Dogmouth" by John Steppling at TNC. In 2007 he acted in and directed Norman Mailer's play, "The Deer Park," and was then invited to co-direct a film of the play with Mr. Mailer and act in it. Morrow was mentored in the Playwright Directing Unit of the Actor's Studio by Elia Kazan. He is presently shooting a film of "Dogmouth."

"The Vatican Knows" is presented by Theater for the New City 155 First Ave. NYC. The performance will run from October 3 to 20, 2013 Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM. The tickets are $10 general admission and can be purchased by calling Theater for the New City Box office at (212) 254-1109, or visiting

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