Fellini (1920 – 1993) was known for his flamboyant, exuberant and often sensual films including “La Strada,”” Nights of Cabiria,” “8 ½” and “Amarcord,” all of which were awarded Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. “La Dolce Vita,” “Juliet of the Spirits,” “Satyricon” and “Roma” are also notable Fellini films.
Born in Italy, Mr. Fratti worked there as a journalist, where in the late 1950’s he became acquainted with Fellini and observed him at work. He later adapted Fellini’s film about a film director, “8 ½,” into a stage play which then later became the basis of the very successful Broadway musical, “Nine.”
This short play set in Italy, was written in 1977 and is a fantasia of Felliniesque situations and themes that borrows much from “8 ½,” with the addition of a convoluted, fantastical revenge scenario enacted by six women involved with the egotistical film director. From this rudimentary production, it is difficult to determine the actual merits of the play itself.
Structurally, it is a collection of vignettes that all end in a blackout, punctuated with the sounds of composer Nino Rota’s lively music used in many of Fellini’s films. Here, it comes across as a bunch of connected, superficial comedy sketches, many of which fall flat.
The small stage at one of the venues at Theater for the New City is crammed with generic furniture and props representing three bedrooms where Nino has various assignations, conversations and plots are hatched. The cast of eight is often clumsily jammed in together in various permutations and all at once. Director Stephan Morrow has been unable to realize aesthetically an inspired stage presentation.
The actors, though all are talented, in some cases don’t quite fit their roles but commendably do their best. The overall effect at times is of awkwardness and pacing that is less than comic.
The very charming Dennis Parlato finely portrays Nino. Kevin Sebastian pops up to good result as the conniving, sly screenwriter feuding with Nino. Coleen Sexton, Laine Rettmer, Donna Vivino, Giulia Bisinella, Ellen Barber and Carlotta Brentan, all have their successful moments as the women involved in Nino’s life.
This current production of “Six Passionate Women” is, for those knowledgeable with Fellini’s work, a mildly entertaining minor curio, but for anyone else most likely would be problematic.
“Six Passionate Women” (through October 26th, 2014)
Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, call (212) 868-4444 or visit http://www.smarttix.com
Running time: 90 minutes with one intermission