IN GABRIEL'S KITCHEN by Salvatore Antonio, directed by David Oiye (Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander). To March 26. $10-$29. See Continuing, page 81. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Family dynamics can be tough, and the Italian-Canadian Montesano clan offers an especially operatic version of intergenerational conflict.
Salvatore Antonio 's In Gabriel's Kitchen Gabriel's the younger son of the family, the golden boy on whom everyone dotes is a tale of young gay love and of a family tragedy, with the latter set of relationships perhaps the more important focus of the play.
When Gabriel falls for Matt (they're both 18) and comes out to his family, the result is a series of powerful, upsetting events, including a suicide. But Antonio is keen on exploring beyond that death, revealing how the family interacts after such devastation. That's why, for instance, we don't see the coming-out scene, but just watch its tense results at the family dinner table that dominates Dennis Horn 's set.
The story moves back and forth in time, from happy periods to histrionic ones, while we piece together what's happened to turn father Paolo into a silent, unapproachable paterfamilias and fill mother Concetta with anger, despair and unanswered questions. It's their other son, Marco, who tries to make his parents take some share of responsibility for the tragedy.
The most striking scenes are between the fresh-faced Gabriel ( Marc Bendavid ) and the seductive Matt ( Kristopher Turner ), the former full of sweet innocence and the latter a bit more knowing but still in the process of exploring his sexual world.
Their discovery of first love, later emotional upheavals and the lessons each learns are poetically captured in the text and performance, directed by David Oiye .
Toni Ellwand offers a rich emotional palette as Concetta, from comically doting mother to fiercely protective parent. Michael Miranda 's Paolo is dangerous without having to raise his voice, though we also see him in earlier, warmer times with his sons.
Paul Fauteux reveals Marco's personal devastation while attempting to reconcile the character's parents to their loss.
If there's a problem, it's that the script sometimes verges on melodrama. It doesn't help that Oiye pursues that overwrought path, accentuating the heightened tone rather than offering a contrast to it. The writing could be tightened, too, without losing Antonio's obvious passion for his characters and his topic.