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The Time of The Cuckoo Packs The House

CROTON FALLS, N.Y. - The Schoolhouse Theater was sold out for the Sunday matinee of The Time of the Cuckoo, and with good reason. Once again, the cast, the various design technicians and the directors have put together an afternoon’s (or evening’s) worth of entertainment equal to many you might see off-Broadway, and, in a few cases, on Broadway.

The play, by Arthur Laurents, who wrote the books for West Side Story, Gypsy and La Cage aux Folles, centers on an American spinster, spending her vacation at a Venetian pensione.

The set by Jason Bolen, with lighting by David Pentz, provided a handsome and creditable atmosphere for the 1950’s courtyard.

Kevin Albert, as the Italian shopkeeper and aspiring lover, Renato DeRossi, could not be more convincing. Step aside, Rossano Brazzi and Sergio Franchi, here comes Kevin Albert who, by the way, does not have the advantage of being a native Italian.

Tessa Zugmeyer, as the complicated Leona Samish, gives her usual powerful and heartfelt performance, with two particularly eloquent monologues, and young Aileen Lanni is charming and persuasive as the housemaid, Giovanna.

The Sunday matinee concluded with the first of the Schoolhouse Talk-Back sessions, where the cast and director gather on stage along with a special guest to discuss the play with the audience.

Sunday’s guest, native Italian Nicola Iervasi, is the play’s choreographer and doubled as a dialect coach. Audience members asked him how Italy has changed since the 1950s. “In those days there was no such thing as divorce in Italy,” he explained, suggesting that Italians were more tolerant of infidelity.

An audience member proposed that “those were the days before the women’s movement,” so women had little recourse.

Director Kareman added that “getting the audience to understand that divorce was not a option,” was one of the company’s big challenges in interpreting the play.

The actors talked about how they had studied to master Italian accents. Carmen Lamar, playing Fioria, said she listened diligently to actors’ tapes of accents. Gaspare DiBlasi, as young Vito, said, “I just had to call up my Sicilian grandfather and imitate him.”

Costume designer, Kimberly Matela, received universal acclaim from audience members, many of whom recollected the styles of those times. Kareman said, “She made a lot of the clothes herself. She takes it very personally.”

The Time of the Cuckoo will continue in Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday performances until December 4. (No performance on Thanksgiving.) Sunday matinees will have the added pleasure of talk-back sessions. November 20’s guest will be theater critic Michael Millius. The November 27 guest will be Italian playwright and critic, Mario Fratti.

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