Off Broadway Reviews
The 70-minute play, now at the Studio Theatre at Theatre Row, takes place long ago and far away at the villa of Signor Di Lirio (Branislav Tomich), a kindly man with a gentle heart, whose three daughters (Stephanie Nicole Kelley, Deanna Gibson, and Kerry Frances) are seeking his blessing to marry their suitors. Of course, there are a couple of roadblocks to get around first.
One has to do with Signor Di Lirio's "gentle madness." He will make no decision until he consults with his wifewhich is all well and good, except for the fact that she has been dead for three years, and, in his mind, is less than receptive to the wedding plans.
The other roadblock has to do with the fact that the youngest daughter, Celia (Ms. Frances), has two suitors vying for her hand, the pompous Pomposa (Jackson Thompson) and the "most notorious scoundrel in town," Giovio (Nick Bombicino). Giovio is the requisite trickster character, and, as there is absolutely no doubt as to the final outcome, the ensuing fun lies in seeing how he will go about winning the day.
The zaniest part of the play has to do with Giovio's scheme to introduce all of the suitors' mothers to Signor Di Lirio. There being no actual mothers at hand, he convinces the other beaux, who also include the bashful Timidio (Brandon Beilis) and the scholarly Serio (Evan Zimmerman), to dress up as women in order to persuade Signor Di Lirio to change his mind. The resulting meeting, with the men wearing silly getups and wigs (costumes by Jamie Nicole Larson), is an act that is both desperate and wildly comical. Mr. Thompson's character makes no effort to disguise his booming bass voice, and Mr. Zimmerman's character does a hilarious turn as an operatic diva, famous for her starring role in the classic "Forgetta Di Libretto."
Even in his partial dotage, Signor Di Lirio is not persuaded by the ploy, so Giovio invents an even crazier scheme involving his "murder" by the other three. In the end, of course, all is set right, Pomposa bows out gracefully, and Signor Di Lirio gives his blessing.
There is so much fun and joy in this production, under Kathleen Butler's skilled direction, that it is impossible not to fall under its spell. All of the actors perform with great comedic timing, though it is Mr. Bombicino's star turn as the rascally Giovio who shines most brightly by showing both the cleverness associated with such character types and a jovial approach that wins over everyone he encounters, even as he is manipulating them.