Female Directed and Written Show Successions Succeeds

Successions with Carlo Mestroni, Tara Nicodemo, and Davide Chiazzese. Photo Andrée Lanthier Successions with Carlo Mestroni, Tara Nicodemo, and Davide Chiazzese. Photo Andrée Lanthier

It is a delight to witness the growth of a local woman playwright, Michaela Di Cesare, as she struggles to find her identity within the Italian community and the larger tapestry of this amazing city. Her new play, Successions, directed by Tamara Brown is absolutely fearless, as it runs headfirst into issues and stereotypes of gender and ethnicity. The choices of two first-generation Italian brothers regarding their lives and their relationships gives a sketch of the treacherous reality so many Canadians must navigate.

Davide Chiazzese is terrific in his portrayal of the younger brother with an ADHD issue, along with the wonderfully pregnant wife, played by Gita Miller. Miller’s performance is so compelling that one wishes she had more of a part. While Carlo Mastroni is engaging as the lawyer and brother who got out of Dodge as quickly as possible, one suspected that there is a lot held back in his performance. Tara Nicodemo has a thankless task, playing the assimilated ex-television actress who sacrifices her “career” to get her husband elected to parliament. This is not an attractive role. She goes into head tones at one point and it is impossible to understand her.

The play has two fights between the brothers. First is a playful “Star Wars” schtick and then the more serious fight. The play needs the two battles of the brothers, but that brings me to a terrible truth about Montreal English theatre. On one hand, Di Cesare is very talented, and she knows how to bring her characters to life. But on the other, the balance of scenes is a bit skewed, and what is missing is some more dramaturgy and public readings. When the director is a novice, she should not also be given the task of dramaturgy which has a completely different skill set.

In one scene, Cristina is leaving the basement and almost takes the portrait of the mother, but Enzo stops her. This could be a great scene. Instead, all the revelations about the painting are made in a dull interaction between the two women. The middle of the show drags; when the men leave, the air goes out of the play. The set is enormous and dominates the play and the performers, and it sometimes seems so daunting that great swaths of it are hardly used at all. I was waiting for one of those scenes where one character is in the house shouting down to the other in the basement, as often happens in immigrant neighbourhoods.

It is delightful that this playwright is getting to work on the themes of assimilation versus cultural tenacity, materialism versus upward mobility, and machismo versus lip-service “feminism”. I recommend that you see this work and celebrate the event which has women producing, directing, designing, and writing about challenging and difficult subjects.

Successions is at the Centaur Theatre until May 6. For details on showtimes and tickets, click HERE.