“You are a woman. And you are free”. This is the last line of Roundabout Theatre’s Napoli, Brooklyn, which is a strangely sentimental quote considering the whole play is about feeling the opposite. Written by Meghan Kennedy as a testament to female, and particularly her mother’sperseverance, Napoli, Brooklyn dives into what the Italians call, “Il masochismo”, or, in other words, masochism.
Centering around the Muscolino family, in 1960, women dominate the stage and audience’s hearts. Director Gordon Edelstein makes clear that Kennedy’s tale is about the wisdom of women versus the whims of men. For this message, Alyssa Bresnahan’s Luda becomes the central figure to viewer’s attention. Bresnahan plays Luda like a ball of fire struggling to stay burning. From the beginning, Luda prays to God like he is an old, at times, annoying friend that does not let her cry; which is why she carries cut onions, in hopes, that they will spark the tears she carries inside to, finally, releases themselves. Luda has a lot to cry about. She has disappointed her masochist husband by only giving him three girls to carry his “bloodline”/ brutishness. Michael Rispoli makes Nic Muscolino the most detestable human being you will ever meet, which is a symbol of his exceptional acting. You HATE Nic as the embodiment of every violent, ignorant attack a man has spewed at a woman: both physically and verbally. He beats his wife and kids because, simply, being a woman makes them weak, stupid, and his emotional punching bag. As the play progresses, the crowd only grows more protective of the Muscolino sisters.
Lilli Kay as Tina, Elise Kibler as Vita, and Jordyn DiNatale as Francesca are like bright beacons shining off the stage. They are so young, warm, and lovely as three girls trying to be strong, independent voices in a world that, inherently, thinks they should have none. It is hard to believe that not too long ago, 1960, women were even less respected for their body, hearts, and minds. Lilli Kay is fascinating, and makes you want to peel back the stoic layers of Tina’s rough demeanor to see what hidden dreams she carries for herself. She is clearly tossed as the “responsible, reliable” one of the family, at least, when compared to the dynamic Vita. Kibler plays Vita, like the younger, spitting image of the fiery Luda. She is funny and forward against her father, of whom DiNatale’s Francesca shines as copy of such resilience/ resistance. Both women sparkle as two young stars eager to, but effortless in shine. Meanwhile, Juliet Brett as Connie Duffy and Erik Lochtefeld as Albert Duffy add a sweet nobility to a play that, at times, can get really dark, especially when entering the second act.
I have to give tremendous kudos to set designer Eugene Lee for creating a set that transported viewers in time, emotionality, and social chaos. I have to warn viewers that near the end of the first act a simulated plane crash turns the play/ characters worlds upside down while showing Lee’s capacity to create set/ situation. You, truly, feel that you are in 1960’s Brooklyn; for better or worse. Moreover, you are surrounded by immigrant families trying to keep old ways of thinking upon their American children like, masochism. From sexuality to gender dynamics, Kennedy does not shy away from the struggles of being human when you are a woman, which can be considered as less than such. Personally, Napoli, Brooklyn is one of the freshest scripts to arise in 2017; both in its impeccable writing and intriguing characters. Click Here To Buy Tickets. Napoli, Brooklyn Runs Until September 3.
Located: The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre (111 West 46th Street), American Airlines Theatre box office (227 West 42nd Street), and Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street).
Running Time: 2 hours and 5 minutes with one 15 minute intermission