Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 450
Albert Innaurato 1948–
American playwright, screenwriter, and director.
Innaurato's works blend naturalism and surrealism and center on the need of all individuals, no matter how unusual or eccentric, to be loved and understood. Many of his characters are grotesques, losers, and misfits, and his situations often border on farce. But Innaurato places serious themes at the core of his plays, despite the madness at their peripheries. He believes contemporary society judges people on the basis of appearance and sexuality, and forces them into competitive situations they are unable to handle. Innaurato feels, however, that people have an intrinsic strength and dignity that enables them to transcend background and environment. He explores the effects of society on emotional life by examining such subjects as sexual dilemmas, prejudice, the loss of the American heroic impulse, and the search for love. Because of his success in depicting these concerns, he is considered one of the most promising talents of the American theater.
Innaurato has said that all of his characters are reflections of himself. Raised in South Philadelphia, the setting of many of his plays, Innaurato was considered a backward child. Because of this experience, he became interested in the problems of those rejected by society. At the age of eight, he began composing opera librettos; several critics have noted the structural similarities between his plays and the opera. Innaurato began his career as a playwright while a teenager. His first major work, the black comedy The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie, is based on recollections of parochial school brutality and on the Catholic fixation with suffering; Innaurato saw the play, fully formed, in a nightmare. Benno, a grossly overweight adolescent who literally eats himself to death, is Innaurato's Christlike symbol of the innocent victim of society. Innaurato was praised for his imaginative conception and for the excellence of the play's language; he has since been recognized as a leader in the new emphasis on language in the theater. His next play, Gemini, is a humorous look at sexual identity: Francis, a Harvard student, is unsure whether he is hetero- or homosexual. The appeal of Innaurato's principle and secondary characters, and the sensitivity with which he approaches the issue, won accolades from critics and audiences; however, some homosexual critics found the play inaccurate and offensive. Gemini moved from its initial off-off-Broadway location to off-Broadway to Broadway, where it has become a long-running classic.
None of Innaurato's subsequent plays have equalled the popularity of his earlier works. Though he is not considered an unqualified success, Innaurato is usually perceived as a highly original playwright with a vivid moral vision. Young people appreciate his representations of their doubts and concerns and his satiric stabs at contemporary society.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 218
Visions of [Eugene] Ionesco, and especially of [Franz] Kafka, go through our minds as we watch this pitch-black comedy ["The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie"]. In a sense, "Benno" is Mr. Innaurato's "Metamorphosis"—man into bug; everyone is trying to squash Benno.
He is the butt of all insults. He tells—and is—the story. But what the play is really about is the decay of the American family. In comparison, Edward Albee's "The American Dream" and Bruce Jay Friedman's "A Mother's Kisses" seem almost wistful. "Benno" is a nightmare, dreamed by Lenny Bruce….
[Benno] is treated as an object, a slave, forced to observe the defilement of civilization. He is in torment, teetering out of existence. He will explode. Life can not contain him.
Beneath the fat, he is a saintly spirit. The only real human on stage, he is treated inhumanely. The playwright is serious about the "transfiguration." What if Christ were...
(This entire section contains 218 words.)
fat and ugly?
Not everyone should see this play. Many will be offended, even insulted, but it has a dramatic and a comic power…. At times, Mr. Innaurato's humor is itself a blunt instrument, but this is not a play one will easily forget.
Mel Gussow, "Stage: 2 Perplexed Men," in The New York Times (© 1976 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 8, 1976, p. 15.∗
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 241
[Gemini is a] witty and exuberant new play…. It is a world of opposites, a melting pot of differing sensibilities energized by a series of perpetual inversions and transformations.
Appropriately enough, the play is titled after the third sign of the Zodiac, and significantly, in keeping with the twin symbolism of that sign, continually seizes on the nature of dualistic phenomena evidenced in human behavior. Gemini is built on a well-defined pattern that synthesizes opposing polarities. Homosexual and heterosexual longings are counterpoised with one another, while the slim and beautiful is contrasted with the overweight and grotesque. On a more important level, and one that is sensitively handled, there are the opposing forces of life and death, paradiso and inferno, the generational conflict, and the morphological changes in every human experience….
Innaurato groups [his] strikingly eloquent characters in a variety of situations, hilarious in the tradition of many of the old situational comedies one finds on TV reruns. There are moments, luckily very brief, when the playwright refuses to let go of a joke and uses it past its comic purpose, but the willful use of lines and situations repeated twice throughout the play is a structurally relevant device that underscores the twin element of the Zodiac sign….
An exhilarating evening in the theater, Gemini is intelligent, subversive in a humane sense, and ultimately, a sympathetic portrait of life.
Gautam Dasgupta, "Wheel of Transformation," in The Soho Weekly News, December 16, 1976, p. 28.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 343
Albert Innaurato may have too much talent for his own good.
Much as a playwright may try to resist or ignore it, his or her bones, like an arthritic's, are affected by weather: box-office weather. When an audience is laughing and applauding and leaving the theatre with suffused faces, it is tough to doubt that artistically as well as popularly the hit is palpable. Conversely, a less effervescent audience can't help but seem to imply a less excellent play….
More than most, playwrights love to be loved, and being loved makes them assume they're doing right.
Innaurato has done very much right in Gemini. He has created a credible milieu—a South Philly tenement—and peopled it with brutal caricatures who evolve into brittle characters. With fine-tuned comic instincts, [he] brakes the farce at the brink of excess and dispels heartbreak with pratfalls. I laughed and laughed. And then began looking for the heart of the comedy, the issue….
Sexual ambiguity is adolescent trauma. Drama begins when a person loves for reasons other than what does or doesn't dangle between another's legs. Francis craves Randy and shirks his sister, exclusively because of gender.
Though Innaurato tries to tie Francis's predicament to the human condition by stressing the importance of being who you are and the strangeness, when you come to think of it, of all love matches, he cannot disguise the fact that his theme is biological, not existential. The Innaurato play I want to see is the next one, after Francis has resolved his sexual doubts and gone on to the larger issue of how to live and love meaningfully in the world. I hope Innaurato will resist repeating this too-easy success—it's easy to laugh at adolescents once you've overcome their confusions—and write a play about adults, for adults, that will make adults uneasy by attacking them where they live.
Carll Tucker, "Caricatures Evolve into Characters" (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1976), in The Village Voice, Vol. XXI, No. 52, December 27, 1976, p. 74.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 182
Mr. Innaurato … is very young (28), and some of the problems with Gemini stem from a young man's tendency toward untidiness. His play is a romance of an attractively old-fashioned sort, with an overlay of sexual ambivalence that may or may not bring it up to date. His ending, as I saw it, was a copout….
What is brilliant about the work—and it is quite astounding—is the author's immaculate control over the farcical setting into which his romance has been inserted. It all takes place in a two-family backyard in South Philadelphia, where domestic hell is obviously a way of life. If you think of old-time farce, in which climactic situations rise merely from people talking louder, your admiration then must grow for Mr. Innaurato's ability to orchestrate magnificent human tangles without any of this sacrifice of line and clarity. The man can write; his play … is clearly aimed at a far horizon.
Alan Rich, "Dramaturgy and Drama Turgid," in New York Magazine (copyright © 1977 by News Group Publications, Inc.; reprinted with the permission of New York Magazine), Vol. 10, No. 1, January 3, 1977, p. 95.∗
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 309
[Comparing "Gemini" with opera] has a certain validity. The emotions, even occasionally the voice, are huge. At one point, a character expresses her distaste for opera: "All that screaming. It's not like real life." Actually it is like life in "Gemini." Mr. Innaurato has a tendency toward overstatement, but to reprimand him for that is almost like scolding Kafka for writing about cockroaches. It comes with the territory….
[The] play is a spiraling comedy—a cascade of human frailties, fealties and pretenses. There are mock fainting spells and threatened suicides—the many things that people do to gain attention—and there is uproarious laughter.
Mr. Innaurato … is already a master at surprising us with jarring juxtapositions and seeming contradictions (a violent argument interrupted by the sudden singing of "Happy Birthday") and at staging comic tableaux….
"Gemini" is filled with … infectious moments. It springs with humor—and in the strangest places. Mr. Innaurato is a natural writer, who has a feeling for the precise word that makes a line both spontaneous and genuinely amusing. For example, an absurdly fat boy pleads, "If I promised to lose weight and get less weird, can't we be friends?" Scanning that sentence, we realize that the word "less" is what makes it so funny….
"Gemini" is not as powerful as Mr. Innaurato's "The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie."… "Benno Blimpie" is a haunting nightmare. "Gemini" is lighter and more expansive.
The two plays share a sensibility, subject matter and theme. In each we see obsessive characters formed and entrapped by family, background and environment. The plays, opening within days of each other, are conclusive evidence that Mr. Innaurato is a playwright with his own extraordinary voice and the imaginative talent of a conjurer.
Mel Gussow, "Theater: 'Gemini' Is Exceptional," in The New York Times (© 1977 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), March 14, 1977, p. 36.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 314
The two plays that are being produced together under the collective title of Monsters have a common theme: the child as freak. But the difference between Albert Innaurato's The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie and William Dews's Side Show is the difference between a real playwright's use of this theme and a wordsmith's clever juggling with it.
Benno Blimpie is a naturalistic family play transposed into the realm of the grotesque, like one of those Jack Levine or Ivan Albright paintings that, walked by casually in a museum, appears to be an innocent urban landscape; only on closer inspection does one see the bleakness of the landscape, the rotting flesh of the figures: The freak emerges naturally from a world that, looked at in a certain light, suddenly seems freakish itself….
Benno Blimpie, though the picture it paints is of total squalor, deals with that squalor honestly….
It is Innaurato's literary sensibility that rescues Benno's story from banal naturalism or Hubert Selbyish clinicality—a matter of stylistic heightening. The cheap squabbling of the parents and the sordid flirtations of the grandfather are turned, by a writer's combination of the overheard and the unexpected, into moments that carry compassion and contempt, pained objectivity and bitter comedy. The naturalistic elements are all in place, but beneath them is heard the violent scream of the grotesque, intensifying everything and making it harsher. Benno's grandiose monologues, similarly, are given their full value in grandeur—this is how he transcends the squalid world around him—without losing any of their pathetic comedy as the hysterical expressions of a badly frightened boy. (p. 81)
[What] emerges from Benno's squalor and freakishness can at least be called dignity, if not tragedy. (p. 83)
Michael Feingold, "The World Is Freakish, Too" (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1977), in The Village Voice, Vol. XXII, No. 12, March 21, 1977, pp. 81, 83.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 236
The play of middling merit fills an evening; the play of lasting merit fills a void. Subtly, or drastically, high drama alters our perception of existence. In this decade, up to now, the most promising young dramatists all seem to fall within the confines of middling merit. What knits some recent playwrights together more excitingly than their works is a sense that they are stage animals prowling their natural and necessary habitat. One such prowling indigene is Albert Innaurato….
In his full-length off-Broadway entry, Gemini, he seems most at ease behind the mask of comedy…. [It] is a zinging display of comic fireworks, most of which explode underfoot….
Gemini is the kind of play the early William Saroyan might have enjoyed or, for that matter, written.
To see Albert Innaurato's sensibility operating from a totally different angle of vision, one needs to attend his one-acter The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie…. In contrast to Gemini, Blimpie is as joyous as a bleeding welt. It is a lacerating look at adolescence….
[Benno Blimpie] is no freak in spirit. In his desperate need for love, his touching vulnerability, and his wistful desire for the approval of other children, he is linked to every human being who ever has been or ever will be born.
T. E. Kalem, "Stage Animal on the Prowl," in Time (reprinted by permission from Time, The Weekly Newsmagazine; copyright Time Inc. 1977), Vol. 109, No. 13, March 28, 1977, p. 95.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 128
It makes me just a bit nervous to see new playwrights hailed quite as lavishly as Albert Innaurato…. Even in the current American dramatic desert, it seems advisable to be somewhat careful in meting out excessive praise to talent that is still relatively untried….
That said, there is no denying, and I have no desire to deny, that the 28-year-old Innaurato seems an exceptionally promising dramatist on the basis of two plays that recently opened off-Broadway ["Gemini" and "The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie"]. He has an extraordinary ear for dialogue, an ability to create believable characters and a sympathy for those who seldom figure other than peripherally on our stages…. (p. 363)
Catharine Hughes, "New American Playwrights," in America (© America Press, 1977; all rights reserved), Vol. 136, No. 15, April 16, 1977, pp. 363-64.∗
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 926
[We're witnessing,] especially in the theatre, a caricatured homosexuality, based on defensive pride and sneering hostility.
We have no word that stands in the same relation to homosexuality as "macho" stands to heterosexuality—or rather we have plenty of such words, but they're all so repellent I'd rather invent a neutral one: Let's call this attitude "gayist."…
[Innaurato] seems to me to best exemplify the new gayism….
At first glance, his work seems pre-rather than post-camp—that is, Gemini in particular is conventionally naturalistic, with the gay "problem" dealt with on a straightforward plot level….
What makes it seem pre-camp is the treatment of homosexuality as a subject rather than an attitude, as naturalistic "reality" rather than stylish posturing. But what actually makes it post-camp is that it takes the attitudes and posturing of camp and integrates them into a conventional theatrical structure. If this play had been written before camp, it probably would have been a propagandistic appeal for "tolerance"—"gays are people too." Instead, it assumes that gay is not merely okay, it's better than straight—an extension of camp's attitude that straight is not merely intolerant but often ridiculous.
Gemini is structured largely in pejorative polarities—not only gay and straight, but young and old, son and father, thin and fat, assimilated and ethnic, sensitive and vulgar—to such an extent that one feels Innaurato is less interested in creating credible characters than in utilizing stock characters who will allow him to express his disgust. The gay protagonist is virtually the only character untouched by contempt—he seems surrounded by a kind of nimbus—and the fact that this contempt is often disguised as affection makes it all the more disturbing. I think of the lusty neighborhood mama, for instance, who bounces around the stage as if the playwright were enraptured by her vulgar, fleshy, joie de vivre. Actually, with her crude sexual appetites, big boobs, and hysterical bitchiness, she's straight out of camp. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Innaurato were to say he warmly regarded her as "larger than life," but I'd be astonished to hear any woman say the mama's anything but hyperbolically gross. Camp's idealization of women is but a subtler form of contempt.
Even more distressing than Innaurato's apparent assumption that one form of sexuality is superior to another … is the death of feeling at the heart of his work. Unlike [Christopher] Durang, whose characters have no emotions whatsoever (only a certain obsessive, almost manic selfishness), Innaurato at least grants feelings to his homosexual protagonist. As for the rest, oh they may feel, but Innaurato feels nothing for them—nothing, that is, but scorn. That lusty mama, for instance, supposedly treated with humorous affection, is actually so monstrous she drives her son to attempt suicide (hah hah), and her own suicide attempt becomes a jovial comic turn (hah hah hah). And for a kicker—such is the playwright's love for his characters—we're treated to an epileptic fit as comic shtick: that one has the audience in the aisles.
But the characters in Gemini seem positively adorable when compared to the loathsome gallery in Benno Blimpie—with the exception of poor, sensitive Benno, of course, who's supposed to arouse our compassion for all the suffering victims of a vermin-infested world. Benno is fat, unloved, and eating himself to death, and who wouldn't, surrounded by a despicably nagging mother, a hatefully bullying father, a perverted grandfather, and an obnoxious teen-age bitch who'd cause any man to choose either celibacy or homosexuality (and all of whom, incidentally, are considered as laughable as they are monstrous).
That Benno is gang-raped isn't enough—the gang then stuffs dogshit in his mouth. Indeed, and this is the central point, it's clear that Benno actually wallows in every new degradation for the opportunity it allows him to feel sorry for himself. "Talent and sensitivity don't matter in this world," he moans, "only looks and sex." (It's revealing that Benno sees sensitivity and sex as opposites.) Poor Benno. Despicably ugly everyone else.
Yet the play is presented as Benno's interior monologue—an alternation between Benno's memories of his family life and his exposition to the audience—and I can see no reason for taking Benno's account at face value. On the contrary, he doesn't see the cruelty in people; he sees people cruelly—they're credible only as figments of his self-serving sado-masochistic fantasies. So the real monstrosity isn't in the characters who oppress Benno but in Benno himself—there's more in-humanity in his revenge than in those who ridicule and reject him.
I'm not arguing that ugliness is an unacceptable subject for art. Innaurato's vision of the ugliness of life seems to match [Jonathan] Swift and [Louis-Ferdinand] Celine in scope (if not in depth), but the crucial difference is that Swift and Celine regarded themselves as sharing in the human condition, whereas Innaurato regards Benno as exceptional. One couldn't even count the plays that have portrayed family life, in particular, as hateful—it may well be—but that doesn't mean the plays themselves have to be hateful. Benno likes to draw, but "Benno wasn't interested in drawing people," he says of himself—"he knew what they looked like." If this is what Innaurato really thinks people look like, I can't help wishing he wouldn't be interested in drawing them either.
Ross Wetzsteon, "Gay Theatre after Camp: From Ridicule to Revenge" (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1977), in The Village Voice, Vol. XXII, No. 16, April 18, 1977, p. 87.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 284
["Earth Worms"] is a black comic version of a rapacious society consuming its young….
"Earth Worms," Mr. Innaurato's most ambitious effort, is the theatrical equivalent of a grand opera—and perhaps it would benefit from a score by a contemporary Puccini. The characters are larger than life, and the play is bigger than the stage at Playwrights Horizon….
[The] play is a nightmare of grotesqueries….
One of the prolems with this play is that too much attention is paid to the exotic background and not enough to the principal characters, an odd triangle composed of a young man in doubt about his sexual identity, his hillbilly bride [Mary] and a 70-year-old homosexual [Bernard] who strikes up a Pygmalion-Galatea relationship with the young wife.
The last two—opposites allied in lovelessness—are, by far, the most interesting people on stage. They are original creations, particularly the aged homosexual….
[Mary] is an innocent with a forked tongue, a nervy country girl who easily rises to anger. Mr. Innaurato never seems to create placid characters; his people are the opposite of meek.
The pivot of the play is the young man …, torn between his wife and the transvestite. As written …, the character seems too indecisive and mercurial. He moves, but does not build to his climactic, guilt-ridden confession.
The flaws of the script [are] the wavering focus, the cluttered background….
There are many moments, however, particularly between [Bernard and Mary] that are pure Innaurato. "Earth Worms" is both a weird love story and a disturbing look at man's indifference to man.
Mel Gussow, "Stage: 'Earth Worms,' Innaurato's Grand Opera," in The New York Times (© 1977 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 27, 1977, p. C3.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 101
Earth Worms is an important play. Set, like Gemini and Benno Blimpie, in Innaurato's own South Philadelphia Italian ghetto, it tells a disturbing story about a bride brought in from "outside" and abandoned by a weak husband who cannot outgrow his background. The story is surrounded by ritual, a venomous ballet about narrowminded parochial schools. The play is … imperfect, but so much power comes through that its eventual stature is easy to predict….
Alan Rich, "Sturm und Durang," in New York Magazine (copyright © 1977 by News Group Publications, Inc.; reprinted with the permission of New York Magazine), Vol. 10, No. 23, June 6, 1977, pp. 66-7.∗
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 365
[Earth Worms] is better thought of as a work-in-progress than as a fully realized creation. Set in what is now the familiar Innaurato stamping ground—the dingy row houses of South Philadelphia—it pulls a group of familiarly unhappy Innaurato people into fantastic shapes, like some horror-comic version of Gemini in which the people have melted down into hideous, viscous blobs that, one is shocked to find, have human feelings even so.
The relatively stable family patterns of Gemini and even Benno Blimpie, like the characters themselves, are here stretched into weirdness. The time is the Korean War. A soldier from South Philly, on duty in Virginia, meets and marries the daughter of a Baptist minister, and brings her home with him. But home is a madness: … his aunt [who raised him] is blind, her only pleasure crawling on the floor to kill roaches. The house has been taken over by a retired professor, an unbalanced secret transvestite….
The wife, intelligent but uneducated, is annexed by the draggy professor, and what follows is what customarily follows in Innaurato: screams, fights, violence, and lonely inner pain—dirt level opera, in which the higher aspirations crawl like everyone and everything else, but still sing out ferociously.
Sometimes Innaurato's vision seems almost too narrow and gloomy; sometimes the will to degrade life appears to take over the pen, so that his writing loses control of the characters' lives and actions in its eagerness to make them swallow more dirt. The inevitability of Earth Worms, and its connection to us, are hard to infer immediately on seeing it. Rethought …, it will probably come clearer, be more valid as well as more moderate….
The fact of Gemini's having been written after Earth Worms suggests that Innaurato knows better than to fall into the trap of rehashing the same cheap tricks for the paying customers, that he is willing to earn his characters' existence the hard way, by imagining them fully. We're all waiting and hoping.
Michael Feingold, "Worms-Eye View" (revised by the author for this publication; reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1977), in The Village Voice, Vol. XXII, No. 26, June 27, 1977, p. 91.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 531
Shakespeare may have said that all the world was a stage—not one of his better lines, in fact—but it seems a mistake for Albert Innaurato to go on from there to say that all the world is a graduate school of drama.
It is the central metaphor for "Ulysses in Traction"…. It also allows Mr. Innaurato, when he is not advancing the dramatic action, to get a lot of things off his chest about drama schools.
Some of these things are interesting and some are amusing, but the play is a mess. Mr. Innaurato has his assortment of theater students and teachers trapped in a rehearsal hall during a veritable Armageddon of a race riot….
This entrapment under pressure—a sort of "Lifeboat" situation—allows the characters to conduct a rough and drastic session of self-revelation; group therapy by clawing striptease. Mr. Innaurato is a promising new playwright—his "Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie" was extraordinary—but here he is using an old melodramatic device and using it badly.
It begins nicely enough with a funny parody of a Vietnam War play being rehearsed at a drama school in Detroit. The soldier protagonist alternately throws himself about as if under fire, and engages in strenuous flashbacks with his hysterical parents, and his mad and homosexual commanding officer.
The parody is not merely of the play, although David Rabe and his army trilogy is clearly a target. Mainly it is of the players, of drama schools and dramatic theories, and even of the theater itself….
"University theater has kept theater alive in Detroit," [drama school head Steve] trumpets, citing their [Harold] Pinter and [Jean] Anouilh and [Jean] Giraudoux. With black crowds screaming outside the steel door at one end of the stage, and the blasts and the shooting, this manages to be both fierce and funny.
So far so good, but unfortunately it is about as far as the good goes. The seven characters in the besieged building proceed through two acts of mutual laceration, but it is attitudes clashing, not people. Whip cuts whip; there is very little flesh in evidence….
It is a dizzying compendium of contemporary brittlenesses and old-fashioned mush. The messages about tolerance and the unlikely spots where the human spirit catches fire and shines, are not the problem; the problem is that none of the figures are believable people.
And the situation in which they are caught is even less believable. The pandemonium outside can't subsist forever as a symbol. It is actually there and it goes on being there for the whole play; yet it quite turns its back on all reality. We never believe in this warfare outside; and it is a kind of crowning carelessness at the end, after all the bombs and shooting, to have the characters escape over the rooftops to alert the police. Presumably even the thickest police force would have known that something was going on….
It is premature to say that Mr. Innaurato's promise is broken by "Ulysses." But it certainly is dispersed; no doubt temporarily.
Richard Eder, "Drama: Innaurato Falters," in The New York Times (© 1977 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), December 9, 1977, p. C3.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 212
The characters [in "Ulysses in Traction"] scuffle and fight and reminisce and make advances—homo- and heterosexual—and generally allow Mr. Innaurato to get quite a lot off his chest on any number of matters. Needless to say of [this author], most of what is on his chest is original and scathing and humorous. Yet in the midst of the fun (much of it intramural theatre about theatre) we are never allowed to forget the unhappiness beneath—everyone except the cleaning woman is a failure and knows it—and the presence of a maimed young man in considerable agony of spirit.
It must be said, regretfully, that "Ulysses in Traction" never jells. Its principal weakness, I think, is that so much of what we learn about the characters has to be told in monologues—a not uncommon defect these days. With the exception of the assistant head's war recollections, which are stagy and unconvincing, the monologues are good, however, and a scalding eruption by the playwright on the curriculum at Yale is pretty wonderful. Mr. Innaurato, a born merciless satirist, moves in and out of the cabaret style with merry results.
Edith Oliver, "Off Broadway: 'Ulysses in Traction'," in The New Yorker (© 1977 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), Vol. 53, No. 44, December 19, 1977, p. 112.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 587
If allusions a play made, Albert Innaurato's Ulysses in Traction would be the hit of the off-Broadway season, instead of the puny and lifeless affair that it is. Along with the title's bow to Homer and James Joyce, there are references, verbal or visual, to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and King Lear, [Anton] Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, [Luigi] Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author, and Gunter Grass' The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising. Doubtless there were others, but the tedious catch-the-writer-quoting game should be saved for English professors. The theatergoer deserves to be enlightened, or at least entertained, not quizzed. And by that test Ulysses fails miserably. When not busy climbing onto the backs of the literary giants, it is clubbing its audience with half-baked Big Ideas, vulgar melodrama and whopping clichés.
"Existence is strife" is the gist of Innaurato's message. (p. 28)
[His] hackneyed conception is matched by hackneyed characters. Actually, they are less characters than caricatures, problems or traumas incarnate…. Lest we think Innaurato's assessment of humanity is completely dour, he has given us a foil: Mae, the black cleaning woman. She is gritty and down to earth, as blacks are wont to be when whites create them, and to her belongs the uncertain distinction of describing the road out of the surrounding Sturm and Drang: "And between us—we'll find something to praise…. That's the music of every inch of our insides, praising this life!"
No, that's bathos of the rankest kind, rendered fouler for being uttered by a patently phoney character. Innaurato's earlier works, The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie and Gemini, also had their false moments, but these were overwhelmed by a genuine power, plus the urgency of a voice that had a great deal to say. In Ulysses urgency and content have everywhere been replaced by pseudo-profundity. Take, for example, the opening scene—the play-within-a-play. This time-honored device invariably has been used, first, to rouse the audience from its stolid belief in a distinction between drama and life, dreaming and waking, madness and sanity, illusion and reality; and, second, to illuminate the larger action. Innaurato includes it hoping to whet our appetite for serious drama, or perhaps to prove he did not receive his MFA for nothing. Yet the device, once introduced, is rapidly shorn of its purposes and degenerates into an extended—albeit funny—parody of David Rabe and Ron Cowen.
Innaurato is more loyal to the subject of homosexuality; indeed, he rarely misses a chance to drag it in. Hence, when insults are to be landed, the coup de grâce is delivered below the belt. The longest scene, moreover, pits the limp-wristed Lenny against the merely limp John. And Ulysses' sole functioning heterosexuals, Doris and Steve, are its sole truly unlikeable characters as well. Homosexuality is so important to Innaurato, in fact, that he has provided a discussion of whether American theater is dominated by "nihilistic faggots" who write because "they can't come." Despite this energy spent telling us that homosexuality is a crucial issue, the climax of the play incredibly insists that sexuality does not count; we are all brothers. Such willed bonhomie can possibly be explained as bid to get to Broadway, although even the Great White Way's patrons, willing to put up with anything if it is cloying enough, would be hard pressed to sit through Ulysses. (pp. 28-9)
Dean Valentine, "Theater of the Inane," in The New Leader (© 1978 by the American Labor Conference on International Affairs, Inc.), Vol. LXI, No. 1, January 2, 1978, pp. 28-9.∗
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 358
The credits for "Verna: U.S.O. Girl" … end with the assurance that any resemblance to individuals living or dead is coincidental. It is not likely any such resemblance will be noted….
In an opening scene, the camera sweeps past a war-bonds poster, and we are told it is 1944, but the soldiers' faces lack the lean period flavor of that other generation. None of this would matter if, for more than an instant, the three hapless U.S.O. entertainers could carry us into some tangy private world, but they are stock characters, and that promised glimpse at life in the wings fails to materialize.
Verna Vane … is a stage-struck orphan signed on in last-minute desperation for a U.S.O. jeep tour of the front lines. She is talentless, a fact she doggedly refuses to admit in the ultimately moronic litany that runs through the show….
The major problem … is the one-note play. Until the last half hour or so, we are treated to a string of realistically awful shows, broken occasionally by a love scene or a skillet meal wolfed down in a doorway.
But the most convincing moments are those registered in the faces of the soldiers, so much so that when the jeep carrying the performers careens down a road to avoid a German ambush, leaving behind it the bodies of soldiers shot by the enemy, one fleetingly regrets the death of the play's most interesting characters.
In its last moments, "Verna: U.S.O. Girl" suddenly promises to become black comedy. Killed instantly, though unblemished, by an enemy mine, Verna becomes the occasion for a state funeral in Paris….
A white cross with her name a soldier's helmet draped over it, tastelessly fronts one of those endless green fields of anonymous burial crosses that remain the saddest of war memorials. Soldiers raise their guns for a salute. And we know the worst. The pulp romances that fed the Vernas of that era have come to life.
Jennifer Dunning, "TV: 'Verna,' Trouper for U.S.O.," in The New York Times (© 1978 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), January 25, 1978, p. C18.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 657
[Albert Innaurato is] the most interesting young playwright to emerge on the New York scene in the past ten years….
No one is safe from his barbed wit [onstage]—no racial or ethnic group (including his own, which is Italian), no physical type, no sexual type. This is particularly true with his new work, Ulysses in Traction….
The whole "sexuality question" was first raised by Gemini…. It centers on the sexual crisis of a young twenty-one-year old Harvard student who can't relate to his admittedly beautiful girlfriend because he thinks he has a crush on her younger brother. The crush remains platonic, though when the boy dares him to consummate the pent-up desire, our hero is more than willing to try, except that the brother chickens out at the moment of truth. Sister and brother then pack their tent and leave, and the hero, realizing that he can't live without them, rushes after them as the curtain falls and his father states, "I think they're going to make it." We still don't know who's going to make it, however; or, more specifically, whom/which the hero is going to make it with—which is the nicest touch of all….
Innaurato's plays are all about outcasts—people with weight problems and pimples (either physical or psychic), people with missing limbs, people who simply don't fit into the "real" world of middle-class America….
Maybe what it boils down to is that Innaurato writes about the little people, the losers, the loners—the kind of people we meet in Robert Altman films or see chasing flying saucers in [Steven Speilberg's] Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Us, maybe, and ninety percent of the people we know? And he doesn't glamorize them, doesn't protect them, doesn't pussyfoot around about their insecurities, their hatreds, their prejudices….
There are three controversial subject areas in [Ulysses in Traction:] academic theater;… black militancy; and homosexuality. Again? Yes. And in this case the gay character is, in Innaurato's own words, "an unsympathetic character who is a militant homosexual." Militant may not be exactly the right term. He's a swish, a ninny, a classic self-hating gay who covers up his inadequacies, which have little to do with his sexuality, by camping and preening and delivering self-consciously "bitchy" putdowns….
Not being able to come, or even get it up, for whatever internal or external reasons, is a continuing metaphor in Innaurato's plays, and it's particularly important here, where the hero … can't do either because of a chronic infection of the urinary tract. Ironically, his impotence gives him a kind of levelheadedness that makes him the most sane spokesman in the play on the three touchy questions, especially the one about homosexuality. When the aging fairy type (and once again I stress, this is a characterization that this type of person has chosen for himself—his escape, if you will—not a stigma that Innaurato or I have inflicted on him) talks about seducing him when the lights go out (as the race riot gets closer and closer), the blond says: "I don't suppose there is anything wrong with homosexuality in the abstract, but anything that breeds that level of inhumanity and superficiality is disgusting."
The racial questions raised by the play are even touchier. I can think of no subject more difficult to broach, even objectively, on a New York stage at the current time than this one of black terrorism—unless it would be Israeli aggression, expressed in anything other than the most hysterically vicious anti-Arab terms. No, the New York "liberal" press is hardly willing to see its platitudes undercut by realities, since the realities don't conform with the careful structure of those platitudes. This is why Albert Innaurato is a revolutionary, though I doubt he would ever define himself as such.
Rob Baker, "Innaurato in Traction" (© 1978 by Danad Publishing Company, Inc.; reprinted by permission of the author), in After Dark, Vol. 10, No. 11, March, 1978, pp. 70-3.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 681
[Gemini provides proof] that contemporary playwrights often combine traditional material and a contemporary approach. In outline, Gemini has its origins in the "rites of passage" drama of which Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! is an example. The contemporary twist given to this traditional comic situation, however, is to be found in Innaurato's addition of a complexity to the basic plot. His protagonist cannot be entirely certain whether his sexual preferences are heterosexual or homosexual. (p. 201)
From its inception, comedy has been concerned with the search for identity which often accompanies the rite of passage from youth to maturity. Gemini explores the dramatic consequences of this journey for a young man named Francis Geminiani…. The play takes place on the eve of his twenty-first birthday, the traditional date for decision-making about adult life….
Innaurato's greatest strength is his gift for creating characters who transcend stereotype. For [Francis's father] Fran there is the shame that surrounds his wife's desertion and the nagging fear that his son is not a "regular guy." For Lucille Pompi, there is the shame of her relationship with Fran which is at odds with her loneliness as a widow. For Bunny, there is the external brashness that conceals an inner insecurity. In each of the older characters there is a large measure of acceptance and resignation. (p. 202)
Innaurato's portraits of the Italian-American characters are fully realized. Though such distinguished playwrights as Arthur Miller, Clifford Odets, and Tennessee Williams have attempted to create credible characters from this particular background, Innaurato succeeds where the others do not. Lucille Pompi, one of the most comic characters in the play, provides the best example of those representing the older generation. Lucille's loneliness and isolation are strong elements of her characterization…. Lucille behaves according to the old code which is an established part of the Italian-American tradition. She cooks and provides for Fran; he is the center of her world. At the same time she is torn between this sense of duty and the fulfillment it brings, and the restrictions which are placed upon her by this code. She admits to feeling like an old sheet—"clean, neat, but used." But she tells Judith that the most "important thing is to show respect to her man." To show respect is to acknowledge his importance—the traditional mode of behavior. To challenge that tradition, in Lucille's eyes, would result in her becoming too much like Bunny, a poor wife, a poor mother, and a promiscuous woman. In the spaghetti dinner scene, Lucille "just picks"; she is forced to feign indifference to the meal by the role she has adopted in an effort to compensate for her loneliness and frustration. Even at the dinner table, she must adhere to the traditional pattern of behavior for the Italian woman, who prepares the meal but whose enjoyment comes from watching others eat it.
Francis, who represents the younger generation of Italian-Americans, undergoes the same trial of conscience. Unlike Lucille, however, he is ready to break with tradition and accept the consequences for his actions. At the end of the play, Francis has chosen to return to Boston rather than remain in Philadelphia. In Philadelphia there is only lack of understanding and rejection; in Boston there is the hope of acceptance and friendship. As his name suggests, Francis is at the center of the ambiguity which he must face. In his eyes, Judith and Randy are sibling rivals for his attention. Innaurato has cleverly chosen this mirror device to support his theme. Francis' decisions are two-sided. Whether they affect his sexuality or his struggle with his ethnic background, there are always complexities which make these decisions more difficult and ultimately more meaningful. (pp. 202-03)
If Innaurato's play is about the frustration and loneliness which surround the growth to maturity, it is also about the sense of independence and an unwillingness to conform that have long characterized the American people. (p. 203)
Peter James Ventimiglia, "Recent Trends in American Drama: Michael Cristopher, David Mamet, and Albert Innaurato," in Journal of American Culture (copyright © 1978 by Ray B. Browne), Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring, 1978, pp. 195-204.∗
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 340
I am [not] sure about Albert Innaurato's potential, though most of the critics seem to feel it's unlimited….
Gemini is the better of Innaurato's two works produced in New York this season. That doesn't say much, since the second, Ulysses in Traction, was semidroll trivia, and his teleplay, Verna: USO Girl … was such a mechanical stockpile of romantic clichés that I began to expect a cameo by, or at least a screen credit for, Barbara Cartland. (p. 83)
[Gemini's] artistic merit seems to me dubious….
What follows [Francis's announcement of his sexual dilemma] is a tangled merry-go-round whose outer mechanics Innaurato expertly controls but whose inner life rarely resonates above a guffaw.
Laughs are frequent enough to establish Innaurato as a genuinely gifted comic writer. Grotesquerie is his forte. The best example in Gemini is Herschel, a mountainous teen-ager next door who is "into" Transportation. Herschel is contrived and bizarre—yet believable; more so than most of Innaurato's other grotesques.
The play's exaggerated theatricality, its breathless (and nicely timed) antics and pratfalls, fail to conceal basic flaws in construction. Too often static monologues—awkwardly introduced, insufficiently motivated—are used to fill us in on information Innaurato has been unable to convey in any more integral way. He further interrupts the narrative flow by pausing for show-off turns—some overly cute or irrelevantly literary lines, sometimes an extended "bit" (like an argument between Judith and Francis over IQ testing).
These set pieces and asides do more than disrupt the play's momentum: they create distrust for the playwright's integrity. He seems willing to rob his own characters of coherence in order to get off a quick gag, to risk knocking a scene off-center rather than forgo some circus byplay. The more Innaurato opts for secondary surface effects, the more we begin to wonder if he has any pressing primary purpose. The play's cheap ending confirms all earlier misgivings. (p. 84)
Martin Duberman, "The Great Gray Way," in Harper's (copyright © 1978 by Harper's Magazine; reprinted by permission of the author), Vol. 256, No. 1536, May, 1978, pp. 79-87.∗
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 430
Francis [in "Gemini"] is a heterosexual; that is made quite clear from the beginning. What he is going through is a sexual crisis from a heterosexual view. He's having homosexual doubts, which is not unusual among sensitive heterosexuals. In the course of the play, the emphasis is on making relationships or not. In other words, the choice for Francis, in dealing with Judith and Randy, is not whether he is going to fuck one or another, but, how is he going to continue developing relationships despite problems. In both instances Francis' first instinct is to go into his room and put on Maria Callas. And, the choice he makes is not between being straight or gay—which I think is irrelevant … I'm way past the sexual liberation groups. I think there is nothing more boring than "straight or gay." The emphasis in "Gemini" is not on making children, or, anal intercourse … it is really on having a relationship. At the end he calls them back to make an attempt. That's all the play is saying about him. It's not anti or pro gay, or anti or pro hetero…. That stuff is irrelevant to the play … yes, and to the writer if you want to know. It has simply been used as an excuse for nonsense by people…. (p. 8)
All my plays deal with outcasts who try to succeed in a society that ostracizes them very readily and very easily. I think we live in a society almost totally geared to the cosmetic. Everything is appearance. A constant emphasis on uniformity in appearance. One of its effects is that people who are easily identifiable as being different are ostracized right away, regardless of their values as people. "Benno Blimpie" becomes the example of the outcast, freethinker, cripple, black, artist, etc. … "Benno Blimpie" is not about a fat person. The important thing is not that he could go on the Stillman Diet and lose 40 pounds in a week. The point is that he is an outsider and that is expressed physically. It is a sexually obsessed play, in some ways … so is "Earthworms."… If I were asked about "Benno" and "Earthworms" six years from now, I would probably say they were anti-sexual plays. There is a horror at sexuality in both these plays. Especially the kind of sexuality very prevalent in this country. The "sex on parade" part of the cities. You can't escape it. (p. 9)
Albert Innaurato, "Albert Innaurato: An Interview," in an interview with Marc Katz, in New York Arts Journal (copyright © 1978 by Richard W. Burgin), No. 10, July-August, 1978, pp. 7-9.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 328
Albert Innaurato is too young to be cannibalizing himself, even if eating and overeating are leitmotifs in his dramaturgy. In Passione, he is at it again….
The seven characters passionately love, hate, or love and hate one another. The play is taken up with bouts of lovemaking, fisticuffs, and eating of every sort, from the most voracious to the barely nibbling. There is also conspicuous consumption of wine and coffee. Gutter philosophy and bed-sheet dialectics abound. Haters become lovers and vice versa; friends fall out vehemently and are vehemently reconciled. Everyone blames everyone else for having ruined his life. Or for having saved it…. It is all full of every kind of Italian, or Italo-American, or stage-Italo-American, passion—or passione—and the dialogue is racy, absurd, obscene, and sometimes quite funny.
In calmer moments, there is genuine wistfulness. And there are the obligatory reversals: The failures have their dignity and strength; the successes, their anxieties and grinding needs. Tenderness comes out violent; fights turn into acts of love. It's not exactly unpredictable, as it recapitulates previous Innaurato plays. If it does not nourish your soul, it does tickle your soles and clutch at your heart. Though often inordinately coarse, its vulgarity has a redeeming touch of originality, a twist of eccentricity, that lifts it above the morass. Frequently exasperating, Passione is nearly saved by its crazy gusto, by respect for the imaginative intemperance with which some people—Italians, Italo-Americans, or stage-Italo-Americans—operaticize the prosiness around, and even within, them….
Passione hangs, in the words of a canzone by Tasso, tra l'arte e la natura incerta—between art and dubious nature—or even between dubious nature and uncertain art. One observes it with mixed wonder and weariness as it fluctuates between Verdi and Leoncavallo, between real people and stage Italo-Americans. (p. 58)
John Simon, "Aria da capo," in New York Magazine (copyright © 1980 by News Group Publications, Inc.; reprinted with the permission of New York Magazine), Vol. 13, No. 23, June 9, 1980, pp. 58-9.∗
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 694
[Albert Innaurato] is one of the most brilliant iconoclasts of the American theater. In "Passione," as in "Gemini" and "The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie," Mr. Innaurato pays lip service to kitchen-sink realism, but, for him, reality is merely an elastic means to a cockeyed end. This man is an artist, not a documentarian. He is driven—compulsively, breathlessly—to remake a familiar, even clichéd world into a new and often hilarious place of his own startling design.
"Passione" … is far from a total success, but its first act is vintage Innaurato. It is there that we find the playwright's feverish sensibility twisting a seemingly commonplace ethnic family into all sorts of bizarre shapes….
When [the] extended family gets to eating and bickering in Act I, the surprises and funny lines come so fast that we quickly accept the psychological reality of the characters, however farfetched or grotesque they might otherwise seem. The playwright tries to get away with everything, and he often succeeds. One moment his antagonists draw knives and guns on each other; a little later they pair off and sway romantically to an old Tommy Dorsey record. Mr. Innaurato also thinks nothing of halting the action entirely for impassioned debates about such tangential subjects as women's liberation, television commercials and coffee percolators. These digressions are so passionately and wittily set forth that at times Mr. Innaurato could almost pass for South Philly's half-crazed, proletarian answer to [George Bernard] Shaw.
Still, for all his kamikaze humor, the playwright never condescends to his losers and misfits. He truly likes them, and his infectious compassion is what keeps his fantastic conceits on a human scale. Unfortunately, Mr. Innaurato's big heart is also the source of his greatest esthetic failing. When, in Act II, he tries to resolve the homely specifics of the family's dilemmas, he simply cannot find a way to assimilate such prosaic matters into his high-flying, operatic comic style. "Passione" soon devolves into an ordinary domestic drama—one that sits very uneasily on what has come before.
Disappointingly enough, much of Act II consists of heart-to-heart conversations in which the characters confront one another, rehash the past and make amends. Suddenly the relatively minor character of Little Tom is launching into dramatically unearned monologues about his suicide attempts. Suddenly Aggy and Berto are recapping their marital history in somber words that merely repeat information that had been conveyed comically earlier on. Sarah and Renzo's final confrontation works better because it springs from the play's farcical underpinnings: they consummate their relationship in a wild, if overextended, slapstick boxing match.
Mr. Innaurato had a parallel difficulty in "Gemini," whose serious love triangle was at odds with the play's more outrageous shenanigans, but he finessed it better there. The introspective interludes were more adeptly interwoven, and the central plot question was left unresolved. In "Passione," the playwright seems, if anything, overly possessed by his generous emotions. He is too eager to reconcile his play's family, no matter what the price in narrative credibility, and he is too quick to have his characters endorse his own credo of tolerance. When a mother's attitude toward her son changes from rage to affection in an instant, the patness of such a transformation saps its pathos. Some lines of dialogue—"When you love somebody, you got to let them be what they are"—state the play's theme rather than dramatize it….
Fat Francine is the only character who successfully rides all of Mr. Innaurato's moods. In Act I, she erupts in one of the playwright's inimitable arias: a foul-mouthed defense of obesity that goes to the outer limits of farce without ever losing touch with genuine feeling. In Act II, her circumspect dissection of her marriage is the one quiet scene that works: she goes for our emotional jugular without ever forsaking her initial comic beat. From Francine, we can extrapolate that Innaurato play that is entirely faithful to its creator's remarkable vision. If "Passione" is not that play, it nonetheless keeps the promise alive.
Frank Rich, "Theater: 'Passione,' Innaurato Comedy," in The New York Times (© 1980 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 24, 1980, p. C23.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 497
Let me hope that Albert Innaurato intends his Passione to be farce with some serious overtones rather than a significant statement about life couched in farcical terms. Taken as pure knockabout farce—with one character literally knocked all over the stage—Passione gives modest but fairly consistent delight, the wild swings made up for by riotous haymakers. But when it goes serious, it has serious problems.
The play covers familiar Innaurato territory topographically, emotionally, gastronomically. Once again we are in Italo-American South Philadelphia; once again everything from lovemaking to making coffee is done with brio, bravura, pepperoni, or some other hot Italian ingredient; once again eating and drinking become a physical and metaphysical consummation, with the thinnest of lines between passionate consuming and consuming passions….
Everyone then is slightly defective—missing fingers, excess fat …; or a disappointment—the educated Tom, a clown, the inventive Berto, a failed cabbie; or laboring under a criminal past—Oreste's arson, Renzo's heists. And the southern ladies' superiority is revealed as bravado or funny truculence merely cloaking loneliness. But defects and shortcomings are the entrance tickets into the grand symbiosis of compassion that finally makes the walking wounded walk into the haven of one another's arms.
Unfortunately, the play does not really dramatize this charity that leads to love, this love that generates passion (or vice versa), even though we are told: "First you've got to let 'em find out what they are. Then you've got to let 'em be that. That's lovin'." I hear it, but I am not shown it. And we are shown even less in this new, streamlined Broadway production…. The [earlier,] longer, fuller version, despite some excesses, allowed these bizarre but human creatures to achieve their full, human density and believability. The cramped stage made the play, as it were, burst at the seams—an objective correlative for the explosive aspirations and frustrations that the characters are so powerless to contain.
On Broadway, the thinnesses become more apparent; the haste to wrap up everything turns, in the second act, frantic, and an uncomfortable, by-the-numbers quality sets in. The disorderly passions of Albert Innaurato cannot take so much tightening and tidying up: The nice thing about a stable (among other nice things) is that it is neither a production line nor a salon. (p. 75)
I suppose the best thing about Passione is that its characters are so palpably droll that they can make even their less funny lines beget laughs in context. Francine taunting Tom that he might have married "a nice blond girl who don't give you no lip—only she won't give you no head, neither," and Tom's reply, "This is the eighties—everybody gives head!" might not seem to be particularly amusing. But in that fat, sassy, juicily alive onstage ambience, it is, it is. (p. 76)
John Simon, "Food for a Little Thought," in New York Magazine (copyright © 1980 by News Group Publications, Inc.; reprinted with permission of New York Magazine), Vol. 13, No. 39, October 6, 1980, pp. 75-6.∗
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 193
[Passione] is a jolly, cozy, sentimental, thoroughly Broadway comedy, and not a good one….
There are signs that Innaurato meant the confrontation between Aggie and Berto to become a significant comic confrontation between two contrasting ways of life, but nothing much comes of it. Italian-American life as represented in Passione is such a welter of lusty, gusty, earthy, emotional, pasta-and-vino stereotypes that I'm surprised any Italian-American could have the face to write it. How, I wonder, did Innaurato manage to leave out an organ grinder and a monkey? On the other hand, Aggie and Sarah lack even a clear stereotype to sustain them; there is no consistent sense at all of where they might have come from, of what kind of life might have shaped them.
Passione is noisy and busy; dud jokes abound…. The attempts at tear-jerking are arbitrary and crass, and bringing down the first-act curtain on the sudden collapse of an old man is the cheapest trick in the book. (p. 387)
[The play is a] clumsy piece of hackwork…. (p. 388)
Julius Novick, "Theater: 'Passione'," in The Nation (copyright 1980 The Nation magazine, The Nation Associates, Inc.), Vol. 231, No. 12, October 18, 1980, pp. 387-88.