Director – Andy Looney
Stage Manager – Collin Miller
Set Designer – Kevin Brown
Costume Designer – Lindsey Humphries
Lighting Designer – Jack Piland
Sound Designer – Robbi D. Holman
Properties Designer – Misty Baptiste
Tom – Robert San Juan
Marie – Rebecca Paige
Janet – Julie Phillips
Carl – Kevin Michael Fuld
Italian Man – Nathan Amir
Reviewed Performance 6/28/2014
Reviewed by Zach Powell, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
When one thinks of Italy and the Italian people, the passion and beauty embedded into the country and its culture comes to mind. At one time, Italy was the center of many empires and nation-states, creating an environment that embraced the cultural advances and charms of the world and becoming the epicenter for art and culture.
Rover Dramawerks’ These Two Couples Went to Italy depicts the story of two diametrically opposed couples, one from New York and one from Indiana, that travel to Italy to gain access to the rich culture it offers. As the play continues, the two diverse couples’ interactions with each other create a rather humorous series of events as they try to top each other in their travels.
Playing the role of Tom, Robert San Juan exudes the stereotypical Italian machismo, embracing the loud, boisterous and brash attitude of an impassioned man. As San Juan talks (read: yells) at his wife, you can feel the exasperation and annoyance with every syllable. San Juan’s body language is very animated, without flailing wildy, completely befitting his character. The accent in his character’s voice was also fitting for Tom, meaning he sounded like he came out of The Godfather.
As the foil to San Juan’s Tom, Kevin Michael Fuld plays Midwestern accountant, Carl. Accompanied by his overbearing wife, Janet, Fuld completes Carl by exuding the strains and stress of a defeated man. His each step across the stage seems to carry the weight of the world as he seeks to appease his wife. The mustache Fuld sports could not fit a character better (think John Stossel). Carl’s logic seems to be his list stand, his only resistance to being completely mowed down by his wife’s personality. The frustration in Fuld’s voice as he explicitly attempts to explain the obvious are similar to that of Bill Maher, without the caustic personality. With this character set up, he becomes the “straight” character in this comedy, keeping everyone in check as the play progresses.
Married to Tom, Marie is played by Rebecca Paige, an excellent comedic counterpart to San Juan’s character. After watching Paige, I was almost convinced I had stumbled onto a live production of Housewives of New Jersey. Her voice is ridiculously good in this role and pairs perfectly with her facial expressions. Marie’s haughtiness could not be more real; seriously, think of a ridiculous reality TV show celebrity and Paige’s Marie would be that person.
Playing the role of the ambitious Janet, Julie Phillips exemplifies the Midwestern tourist stereotype in every possible form. It is a little scary how well Phillips plays her role. I kept being reminded of some relatives of mine from Ohio. Like Paige, Phillips’ voice is also excellent for this role. If I’m not mistaken, she perfectly reproduces the Ohio River Valley Southern Indiana accent. As Janet becomes obsessed with taking pictures throughout the play, Phillips’ hand motions become increasingly angry and forceful, similar to a “photographer” mom taking pictures of her kids in a bluebonnet field. I’m not certain where the inspiration for Phillips’ character came from, but that person does exist out there. Hers is a truly excellent rendition of an overbearing Midwestern woman hell-bent on getting the perfect picture. The exaggerations and exclamations of her character create a hilarious interpretation of the stereotypical tourist and Midwestern woman
Nathan Amir plays a random Italian man who becomes trapped in the same rail car as these bombastic American couples. While his character rarely utters a line, Amir’s facial expressions communicate the fear one must have when a stranger is yelling in a language one doesn’t speak. His dress and demeanor communicate a suave Italian man who enjoys life. In one scene, the couples try to convince the Italian Man to select a side on a debate on whether or not someone actually won the lottery. The confusion and delight on his face communicated a simple desire to escape this explosive situation with flamboyant American “turistas.”
For the majority of the play, Kevin Brown’s set design will appeal to minimalists, keeping things very simplistic. Brown uses only a few tables and chairs when the play switches from couple to couple. Even with the small amount of furniture, the stage feels whole, rarely feeling empty. However, there is a scene where the two couples are riding in the train car with rounded walls. If you’ve ever tried to construct a rounded wall, you’ll understand how difficult a feat this is and his turned out great. The benches and color scheme of the train car communicate the rustic and vibrant Italian culture, blending nicely with the setting of the play.
I’m not sure whose closet or which department store Lindsey Humphries had to dig through to find twin matching tracksuits or the ridiculous polo-style shirts Carl and Janet wear, but it’s evident that Humphries went the extra mile. I don’t think a better outfit could be found for this dynamic duo. The black blazer complete with open collared shirt and designer jeans for the Italian Man also befits Amir’s character well, embodying the chic, metropolitan look employed by many Italians.
Jack Piland’s lighting uses an alternating methodology, switching the focus onstage as the story drifts between each couple. His design excellently illustrates the private conversations each couple has and makes it easier to keep track of the story.
If one was asked to think of a popular Italian song, Robbi D. Holman probably used it in his sound design. Each one helped the audience stay connected to the play, creating a familiar environment. At one point, the two couples are waiting in the station for the next train to whisk them away to their next destination, and thankfully, the effects of the train were not overpowering, making it easy to feel the moment yet still hear the actors.
Overall, I often found myself forgetting this play was supposed to be a comedy. This is not to say the play was not funny, it was. But the acting in These Two Couples Went to Italy is so realistic I found myself exasperated by the characters rather than entertained. Let this serve as my testament to the excellent acting showcased in this play. Each actor feeds off each other well, creating a delightfully humorous comedy.
THESE TWO COUPLES WENT TO ITALY
221 W. Parker Road, Suite 580
Plano, TX 75023
Runs through July 19th
Performances are Thursday - Saturday at 8:00 pm. Additional matinee performance on July 12th at 2:00 pm, and no performance on Friday, July 4th.
Tickets are $16.00 Thursday and $20.00 Friday and Saturday. A $2.00 discount is available for seniors, students, and groups of 10-19 people. A $4.00 discount is available for groups of 20 or more.
For tickets and additional information, visit www.roverdramawerks.com or call the box office at 972-849-0358.