Review of The Light in the Piazza
Book by Craig Lucas
Music and Lyrics by Adam Guettel
Directed by Gene Abravaya
Music Direction by Diego Garcia
Choreography by Michella Snider
For tickets / schedule :
Spreckels Performing Arts Center
Rohnert Park, CA
Spreckels Theatre Company
RUN: October 9 – October 25, 2015
RATING: 4 of 5 stars
(October 9, 2015)
Based on a novella by Elizabeth Spencer, who lived in Italy for five years, the story weaves a vivid tapestry of daily life in Florence. The play was first performed in Seattle, and opened on Broadway in 2005. At its center, the drama focuses on the power of motherly love. Margaret Johnson (Eileen Morris) finds the strength to take control of her own life, which allows her to release control over her daughter’s destiny. The staging of this production gives the feel of Renaissance paintings come to life, with ever-moving tableaux scenes and warm simple scenery by Eddy Hansen and Elizabeth Bazzano.
The music has operatic overtones, but I found it to be pretty without substance most of the time, like icing without enough cake. A notable exception was Dividing Day sung by Eileen Morris. Her performance was awe-inspiring and hauntingly beautiful, questioning how the love of her life had slowly slipped away from her. Despite the subject matter, this musical has a frivolity to it, evidenced in Il Mondo Era Vuoto, sung entirely in Italian, with comedic interactions between the Naccarelli men.
Throughout the play is a dance motif bringing life to Margaret’s changing emotions regarding her marriage. Unfortunately, despite tolerable partnering skills, Hannah Barton, who represents Margaret’s character, is rather distracting. Her extensions have no energy to them, and her feet flop on the end, rather than pointing—an amateur mistake. Had it not been for the dancing, this would have been a much stronger production.
Jacob Bronson as Fabrizio Naccarelli was believably in love, with an appealing voice that flowed well with the lyrical music. He and Steven Kent Barker as Signor Naccarelli created comic gold in their relationship. Jennifer Mitchell’s angelic voice brought Clara to life with sweet innocence mingled with abrupt petulance caused by her character’s developmental state. Eileen Morris was spectacular in her range; I enjoyed her asides to the audience, breaking the fourth wall to great effect.
The Light in the Piazza is sweet with a dash of melancholy, exploring the challenges of being a wife and mother. Spreckels brings the lush glow of Italy to Rohnert Park with a touching love story and delightful evening.