NapoliBrooklyn review at Park Theatre
PUBLISHED: 10:10 19 June 2019 | UPDATED: 10:10 19 June 2019
Flawed but incendiary study of an immigrant family in 60s New York peaks too soon but is effective when its conflicts come together
As the issue of immigration bounces around social media timelines and news columns like a metallic ball flung around a pinball machine, the 60s setting of Napoli, Brooklyn may well be distant for Londoners in terms of time and place, but its themes of integration, alienation, grief and repressed emotions transpose with sobering prescience.
Luda Muscolino (Madeleine Worrall), mamma and self-professed cook extraordinaire, stands in her kitchen with an onion pressed to her eye longing to cry, calling out to God.
Her family of first-generation immigrants in New York is engulfed in tumult but her tears steadfastly refuse to fall.
Vita Muscolino (Georgia May Foote) is estranged, having been placed in a convent following spats with her violent father Nic (Robert Cavanah).
The two siblings Francesca (Hannah Bristow) and Tina (Mona Goodwin) might share the cadence of Vita's New York English tongue, but their predicaments are vastly different.
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Tomboy Francesca has plans to escape to France with girlfriend Connie (Laurie Ogden) so that their secret love can breathe openly and live freely.
Serious and straight-talking Tina, meanwhile, works industriously at the local factory.
Together, these three disparate sisters carry a fiercely loyal love for each other that stands as the single constant in a life otherwise rife with dizzying dysfunction.
Director Lisa Blair deploys impressive stylistic flourishes to her production, including a powerful mimed choreographed liaison between Francesca and Connie, and use of a certain vegetable to signify God's passivity, anger and consolation; which is peculiar, yet somehow works.
If it is said that conflict is drama, then Napoli, Brooklyn cannot be accused of administering it without enthusiasm. The conflict in Meghan Kennedy's play is tireless and a nagging feeling persists that the material peaks a little early.
Yet, when it fires, as it does at the centrepiece dinner, the admission fee is repaid twice over. And there are a few such moments. Napoli, Brooklyn has flaws but it is an engrossing, fizzy and plucky play that shines brightly and boldly despite its imperfections.