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REVIEW: Italian Funerals & Other Festive Occasions

by Marie Male

DRAYTON - Warning: You may want to become Italian after watching this production.

Who else can simultaneously convey so much love, sorrow, and humour just as the title suggests. Italian Funerals & Other Festive Occasions lets the audience in on the Masiello family’s past and present as its members cope with the passage of life. Many theatregoers were caught without Kleenex, perhaps not expecting the tears that came from both ends of the emotional spectrum.

W. Joseph Matheson thoughtfully plays and narrates as John, an Italian-American, middle aged teacher grappling with the fact that his mother will soon be lost to him through dementia. He reflects on his life as family members come and go, leaving their impressions. Providing comic relief along with an understanding of the boy behind the man is talented charmer Trek Buccino, who plays John as a child. The two work well together, allowing for simple transition of scene to scene.

Kathleen Sheehy, as Mama, gives a strong performance with reassurance that it is possible to keep a sense of humour through it all. Michelle Fisk plays John’s sister, Brigida, and the audience feels her struggle as main caregiver and  loving daughter to her declining mother.

Grandmother Nada Humsi shuffles on stage in the proverbial widow’s weeds, complete with unforgiving scarf, and succeeds in alarming all, on stage and off.

Recognizable from TV’s Ready or Not and as Uncle Taki in My Big Fat Greek Wedding is Gerry Mendicino, who plays Uncle Dom, a loving family man with much more up his sleeve than meets the eye.

Anne Louise Bannon is Aunt Mary, Dom’s loving, loud, fancy wife who tells a good story - even if it is off colour.

Jill Diane Filion is a neighbour with a lovely singing voice and Elisa Atristain brings much pathos with her role as a life loving girl taken down by it. Tom Koetting plays a Mafia Don, a shocking element of menace among this Italian family.

Embellishing this comedic drama is the theme of life imitating art. The characters can relate to protagonists of classic Italian operas such as La Traviata, La Bohème, and Tosca.

That music is sung and played to great effect at moments during the performance. Further driving home a feeling are religious scenes projected on descending screens.

Set and lighting designer Stephen Degenstein has created a homey kitchen that typifies the scenes where  most of family life happens.

Under Adam Furfaro’s direction, the multi-dimensional show flows easily so that its meaning attains full, life-affirming impact as characters span time.

Italian Funerals & Other Festive Occasions plays eight shows a week through July 23. For tickets and more information, call the box office at 519-638-5555 or toll free 1-855-drayton (372-9866), of visit

July 22, 2011


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