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The Light in the Piazza overflows with depth, talent, and beauty!

December 21, 2008

A seemingly innocent mother-daughter sight-seeing vacation in Italy quickly dives into a sea of emotional turmoil; elation/despondence, love/hate, ambivalence/fortitude, courage/self-doubt, shame/confidence, egoism/altruism.
Margaret Johnson’s (Lynne Wintersteller) relationship with her daughter Clara (Betsy Morgan) is one of protector.  You see, Clara suffered a strong blow to the head that left her intellectually stunted.  Even though Clara is 26 years old, she has the intellect of a child.  Thus, Margaret shields her daughter Clara from the world and anything in it that might expose her to potential harm, whether physical or emotional.  Little does Margaret realize personal growth, like a muscle, develops best when there’s resistance.

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The trouble starts, as it often does, when two people meet, attraction occurs, libidos are stimulated, and amorous feelings ensue.  Clara meets a young good-hearted Italian named Fabrizio Naccarelli (Constantine Germanacos).  A love seed is germinated between Clara and Fabrizio despite Margaret’s greatest protests against her daughter’s love interest.  I’ll leave the rest of the story to unfold to the viewer but let me say that this play is filled with social, psychological, and familial issues that seem to be ubiquitous yet rarely dealt with until, as in The Light in the Piazza, the people involved are struggling for growth but are stuck between a rock and an emotionally hard place.

The acting in the play was marvelous by all involved.  Margaret had some especially moving moments when she was torn between her attachment to her daughter Clara and her reluctance to give way to Clara’s wishes and feelings.  I, on the seventh row, could see Margaret’s eyes welling up with tears as she battled with herself over the issue with her daughter.
Clara, remember, was an adult with the mind of a child.  Her frustration with her mother’s controlling love was manifested in childish ways: stomping feet, refusing to participate in the sightseeing, pouting, etc.  Betsy Morgan did an excellent job playing out Clara’s childlike behavior.  She did such a great job that one of the chatty ladies sitting behind me made the comment, “What a brat.”

The performance could not have been as delightful without the musical artistry of Michael Rice, conductor. The created thematic development of instrumental poetry seemed to sing with the performers themselves. A rich texture flowed throughout the entire play. At times I found myself listening to the instruments more than the singing. They told the story just as well as the singers, which combined to produce a performance that was thoroughly enjoyable in every sphere.

The Light in the Piazza is playing through December 20th at The Pioneer Memorial Theatre at the U.  Check out www.pioneertheatre.org or call 801.581.6961 to find out more about this terrific story that is wonderfully portrayed.

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