Forbidden love, an abusive father, and planes falling out of the sky. These are just a few issues that plague the characters in Meghan Kennedy’s Napoli, Brooklyn. Despite all of this, the main character’s favorite phrase is “no worries”. This sense of denial might be the core of the many, and slightly muddied, themes throughout this play. However, if anything is crystal clear in this production, it is the spectacular performances given by the ensemble cast of actors. Throughout the play, Kennedy invites the audience to join these characters in battle as they struggle to retain a sense of faith while somehow remaining free agents.
The play takes place in 1960 and follows a family of five living in Brooklyn, New York. Luda and Nic Muscolino (played by an electric Alyssa Bresnahan and an intimidating Michael Rispoli) are two Italians of great faith who moved to America at young ages in hopes for a better life. They have three daughters, all on very different paths towards self realization. The eldest, Vita (played by a self assured Elise Kibler), is sent away to a convent after a rough confrontation with her father. The middle child, Tina (portrayed by a both physically and emotionally powerful Lilli Kay), battles with lack of self-esteem. The youngest, Francesca (played by a fiery Jordyn DiNatale), is a snappy and passionate young woman who constantly dreams of a better life by running away with her first love Connie (played by a nervous Juliet Brett). As the title suggests, the play pits “Old World” Italy against “New World” Brooklyn in both a symbolic and literal way. While the sisters become closer throughout the play, we watch them distance themselves from their father and his abusive demeanor. Luda constantly attempts to bridge the widening gap between her husband and daughters but can’t seem to come to terms with the dire reality of her family’s situation. This schism cracks wide open during a tense Christmas dinner two weeks after a plane crashes down in their neighborhood.
I thought the latter end of the play was the most powerful. There is a fantastic sense of redemption when the most disenfranchised characters rightfully claim their worth. Luda reminds the audience, through an emotional and liberating dialogue with Connie, that it is a human right to own your freedom. Napoli, Brooklyn warns us that this right will constantly be under attack, but it doesn’t mean we should ever stop fighting. JHG
Roundabout at Laura Pels Theatre, 111 West 46th Street
Ticket Price: $79, discounts available TKTS, Playbill, Broadway Box
Running Time: 2 hours and 5 minutes (including 15 minute intermission)
Runs thru: September 2, 2017