by Deirdre Donovan
before Mario Fratti and Maury Yeston’s collaborated on the Broadway musical Nine,
Fratti had already done its theatrical spadework with his Six Passionate
Women, written in 1977. Like Nine, this earlier venture is a
thinly-veiled study of Italian film maker Federico Fellini. And though it
doesn’t have the gorgeous music to embellish it, this comedy still
captures the soul of an artist who feeds on women and lives for his
is a no-frills production. But with Fratti’s long-time collaborator Stephan
Morrow at the helm, the essence of the work remains intact. Set in Venice for
Act 1 and Rome for Act 2, it revolves around themes of infidelity, revenge, and
the battle between the sexes. Its protagonist Nino (Dennis Parlato), who
tellingly wears a Fellini hat, is romantically involved with several beautiful
women, each who serves either as his muse or wife. And though the egotistical
Nino realizes he needs each of his romantic partners, as the scenes unfold, it
is clear that he is an artist first, and husband and lover second.
from the romantic rigmarole, there’s a Candid-camera motif that makes this play
highly original. Nino’s victimized women soon join forces with an American
producer Mrs. Gunmore (Ellen Barber), who decides to create a film about the
philandering artist that will expose his extramarital affairs. This scheming
producer plants a camera in Nino’s bedroom and studio to get footage of his
affairs. And, as you watch this film-within-a play being slyly created, you
can see the tables being turned gradually, with the exploited becoming the
courtesy of Jonathan Slaff
no doubt that the lead actor playing Nino makes or breaks the show. And,
fortunately, Dennis Palato makes it here. He inhabits the Fellini figure, if
not with a swagger, an unshakeable confidence. He may well be the most mature
actor to play the Nino character, who the playwright imagined as in his late
30s (Palato looks a decade or so older). But, as this production reveals, the
part is elastic enough to accommodate Palato’s interpretation.
beyond the principal, Kevin Sebastian performs Nino’s screenwriter (and his
woman stealer) William with just the right amount of savoir faire. And the
rest of the ensemble carries their parts with the necessary blending of cunning
and boldness. All six female actors—Marianna (Coleen Sexton), Anna (Laine
Rettmer), Valia (Donna Vivino), Sonia (Giulia Bisinella), Mrs. Gunmore
(Barber), and Franca (Carlotta Brentan)--know how to adopt a male posture or
just hold their ground, when necessary for the plot’s demands. In fact, this
play nods to the women’s liberation movement, then in full swing in American
society, each time one of its female characters gets behind the camera.
is far from a flawless production! Still, Morrow manages to block the scenes
well and to integrate the subplot of the women filming this Fellini figure.
But his staging would certainly benefit from a set (set design by Mark
Marcante) with more Italian flavor and sharper lighting (Alexander Bartenieff).
Fratti meticulously described in his script how the set design and lighting
should appear on stage, and corners obviously have been cut here. That said,
Morrow manages to get all the play’s major points across, and so what if the
polish is less than perfect here.
you are a Broadway musical maven who has enjoyed Nine (or its revival),
and would like to see the play that inspired its music, then go to the revival
of Fratti’s revenge comedy in the East Village. You won’t get bowled over, but
you will get something better: a real slice of theater history.
Theater for a New City, 155 First Avenue, Manhattan.
$12. Phone (212) 254-1109 or visit www.theaterforthenewcity.net
time: 90 minutes with no intermission.