#233, Sorrento, Italy
After reading Sheila O'Malley's excellent post on being in a great theatrical bomb, and in light of the NYC fringe festival that's going on, I thought I'd riff a minute on an experience I had while in Naples last summer.
No, it's not about how I almost got killed by a minibus on Capri or about the afternoon I spent at a rooftop pool reading Corelli's Mandolin, convinced the storm rumbling in the distance was Mt. Vesuvius about to blow. I could tell you about the pleasures of zipping around on a high speed hydrofoil, the damn good espresso, or the thrill of seeing villas once owned by Fellini and another conceived by Le Corbusier. No, this is a little story about what happened when I went, apparently of my own free will, to see a production called Sorrento Musical.
A disclaimer: except for maybe Sweeney Todd, because there's a lot of knives and murders and stuff, I kind of loathe musicals. I loved being in them, once upon a time, because when you're dancing around on stage, emoting wildly with your forehead, and trilling jaunty, happy tunes, you don't have to be confronted with the spectacle that you are creating. It's fun to sing and dance, and being in plays is fun because of all the friendships you form, etcetera, but when all is said and done, I'm just not a "musicals" kind of gal. If it's not in a minor key, or isn't about kicking ass, angst, or whiskey, you've kind of lost me.
The upside: it was air conditioned inside the theatre. I do remember there was unlimited alcohol on the deck as well. Drowsy after a day of exploring in the hot Italian sun and chock full of bubbly, I sat down for an hour and fifteen minutes of song and dance about life in Sorrento. Mandolins were trembling. Skirts were whirling round and round. And yes, that was someone with a ribbon-threaded tambourine distinctly breaking out into a boisterous chorus of Funiculi, Funicula. I spent an entire ballad watching two actors engage in mimed fishing net sewing while carrying on that most dreaded of all musical tics, faked silent conversation. It wasn't bad theatre, really, in the sense of being a true bomb, and there were some very talented singers and dancers. What was the problem, then? Well, I had been duped. I had fallen into the jaws of tourist trap theatre, something I swore I would never do after being tormented for two hours in Prague by a puppet version of Don Giovanni. But I was hot, and I was tired, two things that have been known to compromise my brain cells.
We all want to engage in another culture when we travel. We want to open our eyes, ears, and taste buds to what a new place has to offer. Why I thought I would get an "authentic" taste of Italy from staring at set pieces for an hour, listening to songs played at the Olive Garden, I'm not sure. Am I an elitist? Maybe. Am I cranky? Certainly. It's summer, and hot, and my decorum molecules have melted away. But still, if I can think back to Sorrento Musical and that hour and fifteen minutes of my life I'm never getting back, yes, if I can think about maybe turning it into some kind of Italian Waiting for Guffman, with Sorrento standing in for Blaine, Missouri, it can even bring a smile to my face.
And if you do happen to be in New York City this weekend, be sure to check out two thoroughly promising pieces from the fringe festival: The Unlikely Adventures of Race McCloud, Private Eye, put on by Jackie's theatre company, Momentum Repertory Company, and Lola Lola dance company's Ectospasms, an eerie multi-media piece about two sisters who like to have seances. A bumbling noir detective and Victorian era ghosts. I feel happier already.