Napoli, Brooklyn by Meghan Kennedy. Park Theatre 200, Finsbury Park, London N4. 2**. William Russell

By Meghan Kennedy
Park Theatre 200, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP to 13 July 2019.
Mon- Sat 7.30pm. Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 2 hr One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7870 6876
Review: William Russell 17 June

A plane crashes in Brooklyn – and so does the play

Direct from Broadway and currently nominated for an Outer Circle Critics Award this turgid family saga, apparently a true story, is said to b e in the tradition of Arthur Miller. That is as may be, but presumably – and it often happens – crossing the Atlantic has done something to Meghan Kennedy’s tale of the Muscolinos, an Italian American Catholic family coping with an abusive father. Mother pretends nothing is wrong while praying a lot and the three daughters, one of whom father has bashed up so that she has to wear a calliper and has a broken nose, long to escape. Then a plane falls on Brooklyn. That is not a spoiler; it is spelled out in the programme, making a splendid finale to act one in Lisa Blair’s efficient, if uninspired, production.
How she does it is clever, surprising, springs from something in the play and does make one jump out of one’s seat – a good thing as by then one is beginning to slump into a coma, so dire has what has gone before been. Sadly none of the family are among the 126 people killed – it really happened – otherwise we could all have gone home there and then.
The cast struggle bravely and the three daughters – Georgia May Foote as Vita, the one he has bashed up, Hannah Bristow as Fran, the one who wants to be the boy father never had, and Mona Goodwin as Tina, the illiterate factory worker furious at not being able to flourish – are nicely differentiated although sometimes it is hard to make out what they are saying. Backs to the audience are inevitable given the configuration of the Park 200 and it does require greater vocal clarity from the players, which is not always there. Robert Cavanah makes an impressive tyrannical father as Nic and Madeleine Worrall is beautifully stoic as mother Luda whose resort to trouble is always to produce more spaghetti. If Cavanah is faced with a cliché role – tyrannical fathers are commonplace characters – she gets one with more depth and provides a much needed centre to the story.
But for all their efforts if there is any Neapolitan blood flowing in the veins of any members of the cast I am a Dutchman. Written by a woman and offering chances for women the play may be, but that doesn’t alter the fact it has nothing to say other than that Italian Catholic patriarchs from the South of Italy can be sadistic bullies, martyrdom appeals to some Catholic matriarchs and in those circumstances family life can be hell. But of the immigrant experience in an alien, but ever changing land it offers no insights, nothing worth knowing, and the dilemmas the daughters face are never investigated.
There are also nice performances from Gloria Onitri, who works with one of the daughters and whose dreams for the future are destroyed when her man is among those killed, and Stephen Hogan as an Irish American butcher who supplies Mum with her meat and longs for her. But just why anybody bothered to bring the play here remains a mystery.
Francesca: Hannah Bristow.
Nic: Robert Cavanah.
Vita: Georgia May Foote.
Tina: Mona Goodwin.
Albert: Stephen Hogan.
Connie: Laurie Ogden.
Celia: Gloria Onitri.
Luda: Madeleine Worrall.

Director: Lisa Blair.
Design: Frankie Bradshaw.
Lighting: Johanna Town.
Sound & Music: Max Pappenheim.
Accent Coach: Elspeth Morrison.
Fight Director: Ruth Cooper-Brown & Clare Llewellyn of RC Annie Ltd.
Production photographs. Marc Brenner.

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