Review: The Nonna Monologues

by Lynn on December 14, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

The Nonna Monologues, Columbus Centre, 901 Lawrence Ave. W., Toronto, Ont.

Concept and direction by Daniele Bartolini

Written by Daniele Bartolini with Danya Buonastella and Maddalena Vallecchi Williams.

Production designed by Franco Berti

Costume designed by Franco Berti, Danya Buonastella and Maddalena Vallecchi Williams.

Peformed by Danya Buonastella and Maddalena Vallecchi Williams.

While Daniele Bartolini invests huge effort and imagination into his creations for his theatre company, DopoLavoro Teatrale (DLT), The Nonna Monologues is something special. With this show it’s personal for Bartolini because it’s about a revered generation of women in his life—grandmothers, or “Nonnas’ in Italian. (Is there anyone in the free world who doesn’t know that Nonna means grandmother in Italian? I doubt it.)

The audience sits in chairs facing two white screens. When the room goes to dark we hear the voice of Daniele Bartolini himself describe both his Nonnas who grew up in Italy. Apparently they? One? Of them made bolognaise sauce but without the most important ingredient—the meat. And so begins the mystique of the Nonna—the recipes that are either passed down from generation to generation or kept secret.  (If I have a quibble here it’s that while Bartolini enunciates, he does speak rather quickly. Perhaps slow it down please?)

The lights go up on the two screens and behind each is a pair of legs. One pair belongs to Danya Buonastella, the other to Maddelena Vallecchi Williams. Both women appear from behind each screen and talk about their Nonnas. They both loved to watch television and there are prolonged scenes as if each woman plays her own glamorous Nonna as if interviewed on a television show. Buonastella’s Nonna loved Monica Viti and played out a scene as if she was Viti. Vallecchi Williams played out a scene of her Nonna’s favourite actress, Sophia Loren, doing a scene from Marriage Italian Style. The scene is impassioned, dramatic and done in Italian which I don’t speak. A slight précis is offered at the end, but it would have been dandy to have a concise translation as the scene went on. I think this whole section should be re-thought. I can appreciate both Nonnas loved television, it’s just that these scenes went on too long without a connection to us, the audience.

Both Buonastella and Vallecchi Williams tell stories of their Nonna’s bravery or selflessness. There are stories of who makes the best lasagne. These moments when the stories are personal work the best. They are human, tender and loving. The last moments are exquisite. Both actresses are wonderful, lively, agile, expressive and beguiling. And whether you call her Nonna, or Bubbie, or Nanna, or Granny or whatever, The Nonna Monologues makes us all think of our grandmothers in our own collective way. Ultimately that is the show’s beauty and gift.

Presented by Villa Charities Inc.:

Began: Dec. 6, 2019.

Closes: Dec. 22, 2019.

Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

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