Review by Danny Gaisin
An allegory is a representation of ideas; morals; religion or politics integrated into a poem, story or play. Theatre Sheridan’s “SENZA LUCE”, is a musical adaptation of a newspaper article seen by Neil Bartram and Brian Hill. Directed by the latter, the story reminds one of Gerstäcker’s 1840’s ‘GERMELSHAUSEN’. ‘Senza Luce’ is Italian for ‘without light’ and the plot deals with a town so deep in a valley as to be in total darkness. When a young inhabitant dares climb the mountain, he sees sunlight. Endeavoring to reflect the sun into the town, he disturbs the status quo and thus faces antagonism as well as intense animosity.
Allegorically, think of all those Obama Democrats having to deal with an activist like Trump!
The story is presented utilizing an opening recitative cantata celebrating the town’s lifestyle and thus the audience meets all the major protagonists…a politically involved teacher; the mayor & his daughter; and the town’s secretary. The aforementioned young idealist whose mother and late father are influences also has a girlfriend who supports his idiosyncrasies. In the pivotal role of the unlikely hero Paolo Sperare, Ben Chiasson brings a Woody Allen nebbishkeit to his character that makes him as endearing as Allen himself. Possessing a fine if slightly high tenor voice, his phrasing and diction make the lyrics easily followed. His major foil is Drew Plummer as his deceased Dad who somehow metaphysically guides him and his progress. Mom’s illness is the catalyst that leads him to invent and create.
United against him is the mayor and Ben Litner is also the comic relief. Wishy-washy (again an Obama subtle reference) and oftimes at a loss for words, (think Joe Biden), he’s also easily manipulated (This time -an allusion to Jimmy Carter). So, the political metaphors. His secretary is played by Emily Meadows and her ability to represent a sweetie pie with a smile & gleam, to the autocrat who can cow an entire town council is as good as theater gets. The rogue teacher is Dean Deffett and he epitomizes such an ‘alpha’ personality. That he also conducts the choir is a rather unsubtle emphasis of his status & influence in the community. Chiasson’s sidekick is ‘Lucia’ and Kelsey Verzotti packs an impression and bearing that contradict her stature…she’s a dynamo.
The direction by Brian Hill is focused on the visual. The bleak set; dark illumination and similar costuming all underscore the message of the play. The sweetest voice on stage belongs to Georgia Bennett as Paolo’s mother, but unfortunately is only heard sparingly. The support-cast members playing students & town folk all contribute full measure of effort and bring a collective boost to the play’s impact. Only recommendation -the on-stage piano performed by Chris Barillaro could be slightly muted so that it doesn’t overpower the lyrics.
SENZA LUCE will be at Sheridan’s Studio Theatre until April 23rd.