The Light in the Piazza
Book by Craig Lucas; music and lyrics by Adam Guettel; director, Scott Edmiston; musical director/conductor, José Delgado; choreographer, David Connolly; scenic design, Susan Zeeman Rogers; costume design, Charles Schoonmaker; lighting design, Karen Perlow
Margaret Johnson, Amelia Broome; Clara Johnson, Erica Spyres; Fabrizio Naccarelli, John Bambery; Signor Naccarelli, Joel Colodner; Signora Naccarelli, Carolynne Warren; Guiseppe Naccarelli, Christian Figueroa; Franca Naccarelli, Alison Eckert; Roy Johnson, Craig Mathers; Tour Guide/Ensemble, Karen Fanale; Priest/Ensemble, Paul Soper; Prostitute/Ensemble, Heather Hannon; Ensemble, Joel Perez
Performances: Now through October 18, SpeakEasy Stage Company, Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, Boston
Box Office: 617-933-8600 or www.BostonTheatreScene.com
The delicate beauty of Adam Guettel's hauntingly romantic The Light in the Piazza is being lovingly realized in the current SpeakEasy Stage production running through October 18 at the Boston Center for the Arts. If you didn't catch this lush and intricately layered Tony Award-winning musical when it toured through Boston last year - or even if you did - do not hesitate to journey back in time to Florence, Italy, circa 1953 where an American mother and her sheltered and "special" grown daughter are awakened to the power of possibilities by love, art, and a different way of looking at life.
While on vacation in Firenze, proper North Carolina wife and mother Margaret Johnson (a transcendent Amelia Broome) brings her innocent daughter Clara (a charming and utterly guileless Erica Spyres) to all of the museums and monuments she first visited with her tobacco tycoon husband Roy on their honeymoon many years ago. In an unconscious effort to recapture some of that sweeping romance that long since vanished from her dutiful marriage, Margaret unwittingly opens the child-like Clara to the beauty and passions of Italy. A chance meeting in the Piazza della Signoria between Clara and the eager young Florentine Fabrizio Naccarelli (a wonderfully sincere and self-effacing John Bambery) soon blossoms into all-consuming love. Suddenly, the carefully constructed world in which Margaret has kept her daughter safe - ever since a head injury rendered her a mental and emotional 12-year-old for life - is seriously threatened. So is the fragile balance of their co-dependent relationship.
As Margaret begins to see her daughter flourish in Fabrizio's love, however, her dream for Clara's happiness - a happiness that no longer exists in her relationship with Roy - outweighs her drive to protect her from complex reality and pain. Torn between conflicting maternal instincts and wrestling with her own conscience, Margaret confronts the ultimate sacrifice - and the ultimate gift - of letting her daughter go.
With the skill of a Florentine sculptor chiseling away at the rough surface to expose the sensitive heart inside the stone, estimable director Scott Edmiston has guided his extraordinary cast to plumb each exquisite nuance from Craig Lucas' charming and witty book and Guettel's penetrating and poetic score. Margaret's struggle between hope and pragmatism, the ambiguity of her daughter's condition (is she really limited or has she never been given the chance to grow?), and the language and cultural barriers that allow the Naccarelli family to see Clara's inner beauty instead of her subtle outer differences all swirl gently but powerfully in this evocative and stirring musical.
Edmiston's gentle brushstrokes, suggested in the pen-and-ink sketches of Susan Zeeman Rogers' fairytale set, render this Piazza more chamber piece than grand opera. Songs become conversations instead of arias. Desires and disappointments are expressed with intimate gestures and tender exchanges instead of dramatic flourishes. The result is a rich tapestry of vivid emotion that weaves the vibrant heartbeat of a colorful family into the meticulous fabric of Margaret's well controlled life.