Last year, when my boyfriend took me to Rome, I had tried to arrange a meeting with the artistic director of the English Theatre of Rome, former New Yorker Gaby Ford. The theatre is now in its 12th season, and they do new plays, not just by the usual suspects. I’d emailed her before we left New York, but by the time I finally reached her in Rome, it was too late.
This year, we did better, and saw a production. The play was an interesting take on Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando” (which I haven’t read since college so it isn’t that fresh in my mind) called “The Moths,” directed by Dustin Wills of Austin, Texas. “A wickedly wacky and purgatory journey through mythological Greece and the mind of Virginia Woolf,” to quote the press release. It was performed by five talented, non-union actors, including Gaby herself as Omphale; Luke Charles as Herakles; and Lorenza Damiani as Caeneas (the Orlando character, and a moth). It was one of those difficult pieces built in rehearsal by the actors and the director. That can be a very exciting way to work, but is fraught with the perils of everything that can go wrong putting it together. “The Moths” was a truly valiant effort. Most of it worked beautifully; the problem to me was the ending, which seemed more a matter of “well, we have to end it somehow, so let’s do this.” But up to that, it worked very well. The set was largely paperback book, or pages from paperback books, so that by the end of it the stage was so awash in paper I half-thought it could devour the actors.
Equally impressive (I haven’t been about to stop thinking about it) was the space. The Teatro L’arciliuto (www.arciliuto.it) is in the neighborhood of the Piazza Navona, on the Piazza Montevecchio. The building dates back to the late 14th century and has a concert hall and a lounge. They have a full schedule of spoken word and music performances. The space where “The Moths” was performed is in the basement, which is the remains of a second century villa. It’s basically square, with seating on two adjoining sides, and the playing space the other two sides. The seating is tiers covered with carpeting, just like some of the classroom building at my alma mater. The stage includes the ruins of the villa- two walls, two doorways, and a beautiful Roman arch window. So cool!