CU'FU? CU'FU? CU'FU?
written and performed by Charly Chiarelli, directed by Ronald Weihs. Artword Theatre (75 Portland). Runs to March 4, 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 storyteller/musician charly Chiarelli emphasized during his curtain call for Cu'Fu? that it's time to tell the stories of second-generation Sicilian Canadians, people like Chiarelli, who grew up listening to Elvis Presley, smoking pot and watching their parents grow fig trees in a harsh northern climate.
Fair enough. In the several years Chiarelli's been performing Cu'Fu? (So Who Did It?), he's become more confident under Ronald Weihs's direction, while the interspersed blues and traditional melodies he plays on the harmonica are still hot. But there's little spontaneity in the presentation now, and the stories often telegraph their punchlines.
Told as flashbacks provoked by the death of his father, the episodes trace Chiarelli's youth in Hamilton as one of six kids. We hear about his selling newspapers, setting up pins in a bowling alley, translating for his parents, making it with a WASP girlfriend, sharing a toke of what his mother calls Mario Lanza around the kitchen table.
Too bad he doesn't give different dramatic voices to his characters, who all sound pretty much the same. The biggest laughs come from those who share Chiarelli's background and language -- he often speaks in, and then translates, a Sicilian dialect -- but for others the two-hour-plus show is less affecting.JK