A delightfully ironic ‘Commedie Umane’ about reality and social injustice

Alessandro Corazzi, an Italian playwright and filmmaker, will have his first American production at Manhattan’s La MaMa Experimental Theater from May 28 to June 14, 2009 with “Blue Day,” a two-character play that has equal measures of Sartre and Murray Schisgal. The play has been translated by Celeste Moratti and will be performed in English, directed by the author.

Blue Day 1
Blue Day, written and directed by Italian playwright/film maker Alessandro Corazzi, is an encounter between a cynical and despirited unemployed man (played by Ira Lopez) and an innocent, ebullient young woman who is an excellent liar (played by Jessica Kuhne). Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

The play takes place at the time of day that John Steinbeck called “pearl time,” the break between night and day when time stands still and examines itself. (The play’s Italian name is “L’ora della perla.”) Giulio, a temperamental man of 35, sits outside a factory holding a sign that says “I Lost.” He has drenched himself with gasoline and plans to set himself on fire. He has also notified the news media of the impending debacle. His suicide is interrupted by the arrival of Carlotta, a fresh, pretty and sassy 17 year-old girl, who ultimately saves his life with her spunkiness and her ability to lie. The play, then, is their delightfully ironic dialogue about reality, existential problems and social injustice. It’s dedicated to “the ones who resist.”

Giulio has lost his job due to “the crisis,” a great financial downturn. His factory is going bankrupt and that’s infuriating, but Giulio’s impulse is to take his anger out on himself. He was laid off a month ago, but in shame, has concealed it from his wife, who has continued to send him off with a delicious lunch each day. When Carlotta asserts that everything is solvable, that in the 1970’s American Airlines balanced its budget by taking away an olive from the first class salad, Giulio identifies with the olives. Their repartee is a charmingly absurd juxtaposition of his comedic bitterness with her cheerful youthful innocence. Carlotta challenges him with a delightful run of distractions and made-up profundities like, “Did you know it’s possible to kiss your elbows? And that a cow can climb up the stairs but it’s not able to climb down? Who knows why! And did you know that the duck’s “Quack, quack” does not produce an echo?” Giulio’s response is to characterise his life as a carnival punching ball, which measures the power of the punch. His father once made the highest score. After that, he “took a lot of punches,” working at the same factory where Giulio was employed, dying of silicosis. Now Giulio doesn’t punch the ball, it punches him. That’s until the end of the play, when he finally learns to punch back.

Blue Day
Alessandro Corazzi, an Italian playwright and filmmaker who specializes in human comedy (Commedie Umane). Portrait by Stefano de Giacometti.

While D’Ambrosi’s “Teatro Patologico” depicts people in a state of madness, Corazzi’s works are a different genre. They are human comedies, or as they say in Italy, Commedie Umane. Corazzi’s last play, “Tutto il mare in una conchiglia” (2004), is a romantic story that makes us reflect on the cruelty of war. His film, “Usual Nights” (Come tante sere), is a story of common people who meet in a small pub near Rome to face themselves and their daily defeats. His plays also include “Un respiro lungo un sogno” (2002). He directed the short film “Il Manifesto di Daniele C.” written by Federico Vergari, in 2005. He was assistant director of the films “Il ronzio delle mosche” (Hera International, 2002), “Fratella e Sorello” by Sergio Citti (2002) and “Sessantanove Prima” by Franco Bertini (2003). In 2007, after taking part in a stage of the 39th Biennale Theatre of Venezia directed by Maurizio Scaparro, he took charge of its Festival Of Cinema and collaborated on “Illusioni, Sogni e Speranze,” a Pathologic Theatre Festival, which was produced and directed by Dario D’Ambrosi. In 2007, he was production co-ordinator and director of photography for La Magia del Teatro, a Theatre Training School for young people suffering for psychic disturbances that was created and co-ordinated by D’Ambrosi.

His awards include the First Award of the 9th European Festival of Amateur and Semi-Professional Artists of Abetone city for his short film, “Come Tante Sere” (2007), the award for the Best Direction for the play “Tutto il Mare in una Conchiglia,” presented at the National Festival of the University Theatre organised by the University of Macerata in 2006; and a special award for the screenplay of “L’ora della perla” at the Bassa Script Screenplay Competition in 2005. He has also been a finalist in several film festivals and in the Frammenti festival of short plays.

Celeste Moratti (Assistant Director, 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.

Ira Lopez (Giulio) appeared in “Days of Antonio” by Dario D’Ambrosi in 2008. His theater productions include “Out of Time” at St. Ann’s Warehouse, “The Liar” with Teatro SEA at CSV, and workshop productions at Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, Rattlestick Theater, Teatro Circulo and Ensemble Studio Theater. He has also appeared in independent films. He earned a BFA in drama from NYU’s Tisch School and also attended Playwrights Horizons Theater School and the RADA/Marymount College London Drama Program.

Jessica Kuhne (Carlotta) earned a BFA in acting from Boston University and also studied at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, where she was seen in “Iphigenia 2.0” (as Iphigenia), “Under Milk Wood” and “A Man of No Importance,” among others. In New York, she has appeared with Manhattan Children’s Theatre. She also appeared with The Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis.

This play will be presented in association with Associazione Panni Sporchi, an Italian producer of original and refined comic entertainment whose authors “represent life through the realistic point of view used by authors of the Poetic Realism Movement.”

Performances are May 28 to June 14, 2009 at La MaMa E.T.C. (First Floor Theater), 74A East Fourth Street, in Manhattan’s East Village. The performances schedule is Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:30 pm. For tickets call the box office at (212) 475-7710 or visit www.lamama.org. Tickets are $18.