Reviewer: Howard Steven Frydman aka “The Howard”
Production: Love & Spumoni
Theater: Seven Angel Theater
Playwright: Jacques Lamarre
Director: Sasha Bratt
The Howard’s Exhale – “a true story and not a dry eye in the house!
Some say he is Connecticut’s most famed and prolific playwright, (many even comparing him to Mark Twain), he has wit, charm, style, and an unequivocal flair with the written word. The playwright? The one and only Jacques Lamarre. His new play? The rom/com “Love & Spumoni” – the true life “Valentines Day” tale by Waterbury, CT author Mary Lou Piland, directed by the visionary Sasha Bratt, and having its world premiere at the Seven Angels Theater in Waterbury, CT. Waterbury is indeed the center of the theatrical Multiverse as it proudly gives birth to a new rising “star” – its current production of “Love & Spumoni” a delicious enchanted delight!
In fact, if the rousing standing ovation at productions end is any indication- this is one massive hit that is definitely Broadway Bound- Congratulations Mr. Lamarre, Bratt and “Spumoni’s” triple treat of stars – Maria Baratta, Marissa Follow Perry and from Bloomfield, CT – Dante Jeanfelix – more on them later! We were proud to note, that on opening night of “Love & Spumoni”, there was an entire contingent of Bloomfield, CT residents who had traveled to the “Brass City”- Waterbury- to see Dante perform including his doting parents, grandparents, siblings, and a host of others. In a pre-performance interview, Dante mentioned that his all-time home-town favorite “go-toos” are Bloomfield Village Pizza and Pasticceria Italia Bakery with it’s amazing roster of cannolis.
Playwright Jacques Lamarre- for those in the know, Jacques has written, several well received productions, that are still being produced including; “Born Fat”, “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti”, and “Raging Skillet”, one of our all time favorite “Ja-La” plays- about the life and times of “Chef Rossi – celebrity executive chef and caterer to the stars. Hmmm, ya notice that a majority of Jacques productions all have to do with food? Food – It’s one thing we all have in common – good food goes hand in hand with family, traditions and those tales that interweave throughout the generations. Here it’s lobsters, pasta and of course Spumoni!
The tale – “Love and Spumoni” – the place – Waterbury, Connecticut- the time period 1984 – 1990s. Meet Mary Lou Piland, (Maria Baratta) she has received an invite to participate in “ The Moth” with its series of live storytelling events. In one night she explains, she will be able to reach over 12 million people through the Moth’s broadcast/podcasts with her 12 minute retelling of her own immigrant, Italian family, star-crossed love story. As Mary Lou now provides flashback, we are introduced to “Teen Mary Lou” ( Marissa Follow Perry), now circa 1984 with her detailing high school life at Sacred Heart and her desire to stalk and eventually marry “Anthony” (Dante Jeanfelix) who is black. She explains, “I knew this was the man I would spend the rest of my life with, the only problem, how to tell my parents that the man she would marry is black”. As Mary Lou states- my family wants me to marry someone who is Italian, Catholic, and from the neighborhood – everything “Anthony” is not, but the heart wants what the heart wants”!
Lamarre and Sasha Bratt have introduced us to a most important new play that elicits strong emotions – laughter one moment and tears the next. At the production I was at, I took note of numerous folks who could be seen tearing up throughout or bubbling up with heartfelt laughter that echoed throughout the Seven Angels theater. The best productions leave us with a message, think “Finian’s Rainbow” – with its story arc about bigotry and racism. Within “Love & Spumoni” we are dealing with racism, religion, and long time family tradition – and what comes first – family or one’s own passions. “Spumoni” – makes one think, and this production has indeed touched a nerve with its audience. We would love to see this production turned into a musical.
The cast, as mentioned is a triple treat – absolutely top-notch! Three stupendous actors, giving full fledge life to Ja-La’s characters. Maria Baratta, portrays not only Mary Lou but numerous characters throughout with proper accents and nuance. Marissa Follow Perry as “Teen Mary Lou” is a complete standout as the bubbly, boy obsessed adolescent – she is simply irresistibly radiant – and deserves the coveted “Howard Noticed You” Award. Finally, with a whole contingent of Bloomfield folks in the audience, we join them in our admiration of our own “hometown” celebrity- Mr. Dante Jeanfelix- you sir were exceptional and so enjoyed your “ultra-cool”, suave performance of “Anthony” and look forward to seeing you in future productions. Enjoy.
“Love & Spumoni” is currently being produced at Seven Angels Theater. For tickets call the box office at 203-757-4676, online at SevenAngelsTheatre.org, or at the box office at 1 Plank Road, Waterbury. Free Parking. Just off I-84. GPS directions use: Hamilton Park, Waterbury.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at TheHoward24@gmail.com.