The Light in the Piazza
7:30 pm Wednesdays-Saturdays and 2 pm Sundays through March 30., Wednesday March 26 | $32-$36.
Set in Italy in the early 1950s, Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel’s contemporary musical The Light in the Piazza
has all the typical elements of a girl-gone-abroad chick flick. There’s a happenstance meeting between a bright-eyed American tourist and an attractive Florentine boy who doesn’t speak English, their relatives’ amusing meddling and the will-they-or-won’t-they drama that ensues. But the girl here is Clara, a 26-year-old who was kicked in the head by a pony while young and still tends to act like a child, joyously shouting “olly olly oxen free!” in a busy cathedral and suffering a hysterical breakdown after getting lost one night in Florence. And what further distinguishes this show, presented at Portland Playhouse, is the separate love story that unfolds—the one focused on mother and daughter, as the protective parent learns to let go. The music, played simply and beautifully on piano and cello, can be near-operatic, with lyrics in both English and Italian. Non-Italian speakers have nothing to fear: The performers’ clever asides and facial gestures help reveal meaning, allowing the two languages to shift in and out of each other as easily as the small set is transformed from an Italian cathedral to a hotel room. Supported by a top-notch cast, Susannah Mars and Merideth Kaye Clark work off each other easily. As the mother, Mars captures a sternness that quickly melts into sadness when remembering a past love or when tucking an upset Clara into bed. Clark just as skillfully embodies Clara’s bright curiosity and passion as she runs around stage, smiling and dancing at the wind and the flowers, or crying and raging at her mother for saying “no.” These relatable moments of unconditional love often shine over a more traditional—though still very sweet—romance.
602 NE Prescott St.Website: http://portlandplayhouse.org/frontpage/front-page