Ottawa
3 min

Spoken and unspoken rules

Mambo Italiano makes you laugh

THAT'S AMORE. Michael Mancini (l) and Joseph Gallaccio star in Mambo Italiano. Credit: Captial Xtra files

“Little Italy” is coming to the Ottawa stage this month, as the Great Canadian Theatre Company puts on its production of Mambo Italiano.



And director Lorne Pardy says that, unlike some of his previous plays, this time both he and the audience will be in for a comedic romp.



“It’s a very popular show,” says Pardy of the light-hearted dramatic comedy that has been a crowd-pleaser since its debut in 2001.



“It’s had a lot of play and I think all of that recognition will be what brings people into the theatre,” says Pardy.



The play showcases the lives of Angelo and Nino, two closeted gays hiding their love from their traditional Italian families.



“Then it kinda blurts out and everybody suddenly in both families knows about it,” explains Pardy. “They’re shocked at first. Really it’s about families, it’s about acceptance.”



Audiences can expect uplifting Italian music and “outrageous” characters, says Pardy, a definite switch from his last effort, Whale Riding Weather.



“Mambo Italiano is a feel-good play. You know starting out that everything will be okay. It’s a great summer show,” he says, adding that Whale Riding was an “intense, painful piece.”



The familiar “coming out” plot is always a bonus for Pardy, but he says the setting in which it takes place for Angelo and Nino was his inspiration.



“As a gay man I appreciate any stories that explore the struggles that I had to go through,” he admits. “But what I liked about it was it’s about what it’s like to come out in a particular culture, a culture that has certain spoken and unspoken rules. Something like this kind of rocks their world.”



The show enjoyed two long runs in Montreal and Toronto, and is scheduled to hit Montreal a second time. Actor Joseph Gallaccio, who plays Nino, is part of the original cast.



“I sort of got in on the ground level,” says Gallaccio, who is not related to playwright Steve Galluccio. “I want to see what new things we can do with it.”



The show played to surprisingly sold-out audiences when it debuted only a couple weeks after 9/11 and has enjoyed a strong run since – even as a movie.



“I had a wonderful response to it,” says Gallaccio. “Men would come up to me and say in hushed tones, ‘Hey, that’s my story, thank you.'”



But because of its cultural tones, feedback has been strong even beyond the gay community. “It’s all about perceptions, what the labels mean,” he says. “It’s about appearances.”



Gallaccio has thoroughly enjoyed Mambo’s run, particularly the scenes under past directors where he’s naked, but the simil-arities between he and Nino are limited.



“The only thing I have in common with this character is that I’m first generation Italian. I came out of the closet and told [my family] I was an actor, but they would have preferred if I had said I was gay,” he laughs.



Mambo Italiano hits the stage Thu, May 27, also starring Mary Long and Michael Mancini.



Two special fundraising events are planned during the run of the show.



A gala fundraiser for GCTC will take place Fri, Jun 11. Starting at 6pm patrons will gather at Sala San Marco to sample entrees from Preston St restaurants and take part in a silent auction, followed by a performance of the show, with auction winners announced later in the evening. A visual artist, Gallacio’s work will be on display in the lobby during the play’s run and included in the auction. Tickets are $100; $75 for GCTC subscribers.



On Sat, Jun 19 there will be a special benefit performance to raise funds for Bruce House and GCTC. The evening includes opportunities to meet the cast, sample appetizers from The Buzz, have champagne at intermission and view the play with friends and party into the night.



MAMBO ITALIANO.

May 27–Jun 20.

Curtain: 8pm.

GCTC (910 Gladstone Ave).

Tickets: $28, Tue–Sat; $16 preview/matinee; first Sunday of run is pay-what-you-can.

Box office: Noon–6:30pm, Mon–Sat; call 236-5196.

Info: www.gctc.ca



BRUCE HOUSE & GCTC BENEFIT.

Sat, Jun 19. 8pm.

Tickets: $50.

Info: Bruce House at 729-0911 or GCTC at 236-5196.