MANGIACAKE! written and performed by Charly Chiarelli, directed by Ronald Weihs. Artword Theatre (75 Portland). Runs to April 29, Thursday-Friday 8 pm, Saturday 8:30 pm, matinees Saturday 4 pm and Sunday 3 pm. $22-$27, stu/srs $16-$22, child $12-$15. 416-408-2783. Rating: NN
jazz harmonica in hand, charly Chiarelli's back with his second instalment of autobiographical storytelling. Mangiacake! continues the tale of growing up Italian in Hamilton. In fact, much of the first act is a variation on his first show, Cu' Fu?
There's more meat in the second half, when Chiarelli returns to the Sicilian village of Racalmuto that his family left years before. The encounter with his namesake uncle and the uncle's donkey is the most unexpected story, and nothing that follows it has the same charm. The production's other unalloyed pleasure is Judith Sandiford's scenic design, which provides a beautiful vision at the end of the first act.
The arc of the show has Chiarelli -- who, under Ronald Weihs's direction, has an undeniable rapport with his audience -- first trying to be a mangiacake (a non-Italian Canadian) and then discovering how to lose that bland personality to regain his Sicilian balls, metaphorically speaking. Real cojones, in fact, figure in the tales, as do a Sicilian-speaking Chinese doctor, school race rumbles and almonds.
Chiarelli delivers many of the lines in Italian and then translates for us mangiacakes. There's laughter for all, but audience members who speak Italian or who grew up in a similar, bicultural environment seem to be having the most fun.