Volume 79, Number 19 | Oct 14 - 20, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Theater

HOW TO BE A GOOD ITALIAN DAUGHTER (IN SPITE OF MYSELF)
Written and performed by Antoinette LaVecchia
Directed by Ted Sod
75 Minutes, no intermission (may be in appropriate for 13 and under)
Through (at least) October 25
At the Cherry Lane Studio Theatre, 38 Commerce Street (off 7th Ave., 1 block south of Bleecker)For tickets ($18), call (212) 239-6200 or visit www.telecharge.com

Photo by Catherine Gibbons

Antoinette LaVecchia, poised to dish on the mother/daughter dynamic

She’s good. She’s Italian. She’s somebody’s daughter.

Antoinette LaVecchia’s show speaks to anybody who has a mom

By Jerry Tallmer

Everybody has – or had — a mother; but as for mothers and daughters, only Antoinette LaVecchia has Antoinette LaVecchia’s mother. At the moment, LaVecchia is sitting alone in her apartment — her divorced apartment — trying to create a character named Professor Donna DiPippio, who has some advice on how to start being a good Italian (more precisely, good Italian-American) daughter.

As follows:

“Make a list of everything you’ve ever felt guilty about, in your whole life. Thoughts count. And start going to church — every day. And it wouldn’t hurt to make friends with a nun…because priests right now, we don’t know…”

…when the telephone rings.

ANTOINETTE LaVECCHIA: Hello.

MARIA LaVECCHIA, a/k/a Ma: Antoneh, why you no call me back?

ANTOINETTE: Ma, I’m still busy.

Ma: I know you busy, busy, busy. All the time you busy.

A: What do you want, Ma?

Ma: Listen. You take the measurements for the window in you living room because I wanna make the curtain for you.

A: Ma, I don’t want curtains in my living room. The window looks fine the way it is.

Ma: Why, Antoneh? Why? Really, why?

A: Because it’s my apartment.

Ma: Oh, Antoneh, why can’t you be like other normal people, they have curtain in the living room?…Why God gotta punish me?

A: Ma, I’m running out the door.

Ma: E, where you go?

A: I’m going on a date.

Ma: With who?

A: You don’t know him.

Ma: E, what happen to the other boy?

A: It didn’t work out. Look, Ma, I just got divorced. I need to get out and meet different people.

Ma: Antoneh, you can’t try on the man like you try on the shoes.

“I’ve been imitating my mother since I was 15, 16 years old,” says the real, or off-stage, Antoinette LaVecchia. “Then about ten years ago, I would invent characters and invite other people to watch. But the genesis of this piece was about nine years ago, when I got divorced — with my parents’ reaction to it tying everything together,” says this particular dark-haired good Italian daughter with a protective flurry of laughter. “Who knows?”

As to that divorce, that ex-husband—

“I was married seven and a half years. Well, seven years, But we were together eight and a half years. He was someone who wanted to be in the arts, but instead did a lot of temporary jobs. He didn’t quite know what he wanted.”

While she, as an actress, quite clearly does. What any actress wants: an audience.

Does she, meanwhile, have another guy?

“I don’t. I don’t. It’s a work in progress. I date on occasion.”

The performance is graced by a cardboard box from which she from time to time withdraws a few bare-bones props — a baby blanket, a headband, a movie star’s sunglasses, a scarf, a pair of Frederick’s of Hollywood leopard shoes — but one prop is created solely by Antoinette LaVecchia’s hands: a Puppet Vagina, if one may put it that way.

And this puppet has a lot to say, as does, contrariwise, a certain Italian mother.

Ma: Listen to me, Antoneh. The men they want one thing…Issa part of the body. They need, if they no have, they die.

A: Oh.

Ma: Issa true, Antoneh. The women they no need.

A: Oh. Really? Well what if I told you that women do need it. That maybe I need it.

Ma: Oh, Antoneh, disgusting, disgusting, disgusting. Listen to me, Antoneh…you make you father have a heart attack and die and then you gonna go to the cemetery and say I so sorry Daddy, I kill you.

Ms. LaVecchia, is your father — are your mother and father, the real ones — still alive?

“Oh yes. They’re quite young. Compared to how old I am,” she says with a further burst of laughter. But she does not reveal how old she is — merely that she was born, once upon a time, in San Rufo, a village, or commune, in Salerno Province, on the fore-ankle of Italy — “about four hours south of Rome, but not quite Sicily. We speak of ourselves as Salernicani.”

The talking vagina, and its appetites, might be seen as, in fact, the centerpiece of the show. How does it go over? Does anybody out there in the seats get nervous?

“I’m sure somebody does. But one night, in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, there were 300 people in the audience — with a median age of around 60; a middle-class audience; no theater people in that audience at all. And I was a little nervous. But they were screaming with laughter, falling out of their seats…”

This other work-in-progress has been in progress for quite some years — ever since a 2003 showcasing at Urban Stages, in the West 30s. “I will tell you,” says LaVecchia, not at all laughing, “this show is a love story between my mother and me. Through it, I got to understand the visceral relationship between mother and child, mother and daughter.”

How about those curtains?

“I’ve moved to a new apartment, in Riverdale. And yes, she’s making me curtains.”

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