Theater review by Helen Shaw. 59E59. By Ettore Scola and Ruggero Maccari. Adapted by Gigliola Fantoni. Dirs. Ana Graham and Antonio Vega. With Graham, Vega. 1hr 20mins. No intermission.
The charming minidrama Working on a Special Day adapts the 1977 Italian film Una giornata particolare to the stage, and if its pleasures seem contained, that is only because the creative team of Ana Graham and Antonio Vega has deliberately chosen coziness over scale.
Ettore Scola’s exquisite vehicle for Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni imagined his leads as two lonely Roman tenants who accidentally encounter each other—housewife Antonietta, ignored in the middle of her bustling, pro-fascist family, and Gabriele, a sexual and political outcast. One bright day in 1938, Hitler visits his ally Mussolini, and while the whole Italian world goes to watch, these two stay fatefully behind.
In a brisk, poor-theater production, Graham and Vega ask us to imagine much. They change into their costumes in front of us, trigger laptop sound cues from a remote control; they even draw their “set” onto the walls with chalk. It encourages an imaginative bond between players and audience, one that builds just as our heroes fall inevitably toward many kinds of love. Other invisible connections are at play here as well—the creators’ Mexico City–based company, Por Piedad Teatro, has pooled its efforts with the local Play Company, and this fruitful relationship is surely worth celebrating. Much of Working is about the joy of little labors: the loveliness of laundry on a line or Gabriele’s delight in grinding coffee beans. Ultimately, it’s this same sensation we take away—not the heartache of the story, but the comfort of watching craftsmen at their work.—Helen Shaw