In an attempt to become more community inclusive, Theatre Cambrian heads out into uncharted waters this summer as it presents its first francophone dinner theatre, Mambo Italiano.
Originally written in English by Steve Gallucio, the play was translated by well-known Quebec playwright Michel Tremblay, and the French version retains all the drama and the laughs of the original.
Like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the work to which it is frequently compared, Mambo Italiano mines a similar vein of mainstream humour based on ethnic stereotypes and inter-generational conflict in a hyphenated Canadian family.
Mambo’s story revolves around Angelo Barbieri (played by fresh face to Theatre Cambrian, Jean-Paul Courtemanche), a homosexual who decides to come out of the closet and reveal his true self to his parents, without consulting his lover, Nino (Theatre Cambrian regular, Marc Larivière). Things quickly get out of hand as Maria and Gino (veteran of many TNO productions, Marie-Paule Paquette and Theatre Cambrian newcomer Raymond Landry), Angelo’s parents who are deeply anchored to Italian tradition and culture, refuse to accept their son’s perceived “evil ways” and launch an all-out campaign to bring him to his senses.
The Barbieris are aided and abetted in their efforts by Nino’s hard-as-nails mother, Lina Paventi (fresh face Alice Séguin), also an old school Italian who will stop at nothing to ensure her son will get hitched to a nice Italian girl. Enter Pina (Theatre Cambrian veteran Mélanie Rainville), the unknowing sacrificial lamb who will be offered up to Nino .
Angelo’s sister, Anna (Anie Cousineau) — an “old maid” — is aware of his deep, dark secret, but she is powerless in the face of her parents’ onslaught, as she wrestles with her own demons. Things spiral out of control at a reception meant to get both Anna and Nino hitched to suitable partners. The result is a family being totally torn apart in a maelstrom of accusations, counter accusations and outright hostility.
Although a powerful and poignant story, Mambo has more than its share of comedic moments that punctuate the ever-rising tension created by Angelo’s “coming out.”
The comedy is played brilliantly by a highly experienced cast of veterans from both Theatre Cambrian and across the Sudbury area.
Galluccio writes for television sitcoms, and Tremblay/Galluccio’s Mambo Italiano bears all the hallmarks, for better or worse, of that genre. Despite its mildly controversial subject matter, it is also about as shocking, provocative, and cutting-edge as an episode of Will and Grace. The flip-side of its mainstream success, however, is that the play has undoubtedly served as a catalyst for dialogue about homosexuality for many people, especially from the Italian community, for whom the subject has previously been taboo.
Mambo Italiano runs Aug. 17-18 and 23-25 at the Jubilee Centre on Applegrove. As it is a dinner theatre that includes a buffet by Diana’s Catering, reservations are required. Tickets are $48 and are available at 40 Eyre St., by phoning 705-524-7317 or online at theatrecambrian.ca.
Posted by Laurel Myers