The one-person show about trying to break into the acting business is a staple of independently produced theatre. So is the ethnic comedy. Fringe festivals survive on this stuff. Writer/performer Dina Morrone's The Italian In Me tries to rework both genres but doesn't quite succeed.
Gracing the exact same stage where Nia Vardalos performed (oh so long ago) a little ethnic comedy called My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Morrone goes through the paces as she introduces us to her life in small-town Ontario and her subsequent move to Rome, Italy, where she hopes and prays (literally – we get a tour of various churches) for her big break.
Why she picks Italy over, say, New York or Los Angeles (or even, heaven forbid, Toronto), is unclear. She doesn't seem to have any family in Italy – none that she mentions in the show, anyway. And we never really discover why she wants to become an actor. These mysteries nag at you throughout the short play.
What Morrone focuses on is the sexual exploitation she encounters in the business. Everyone wants to get into her pants: her first agent, her second agent, the stranger beside her on the bus to the Vatican. All this macho fumbling soon becomes tiresome.
When she finally meets up with director Federico Fellini – in the play's strongest, most vivid scene – we're relieved that he doesn't judge her on her shapely derriere. Or does he?
Morrone has lots of charisma and a relaxed, natural way of delivering a story. You get a sense of her range from her depictions of the various predatory men she encounters as well as one overly vivacious Italian talkshow host.
The direction by Peter Flood is fine; there's a nice sequence where Morrone, to Nino Rota's memorable scores, presents brief impressions of some of Fellini's famous actresses (all through shadow work!), and that talkshow host scene is quite vivid.
But the piece lacks heart - both literally and figuratively. We never really get our bearings - Morrone the writer doesn't have much of a gift for place - and for all her talk about her Ontario nonna, we don't feel much for anyone in the show.