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    2008-2009 reviews:
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    Erotic Adventures in Venice

    No sex, please, we're Italian

    "Erotic Adventures in Venice" is much too tame for a comedy about sex, money, corrupt politicians and a zany graveyard in Italy.


    The first thing you'll want to know is that "Erotic Adventures in Venice" conforms to my theory that if you're looking for an erotic experience, you don't go looking for a movie or play that blatantly offers it in the title.

    Written by: Mario Fratti.
    Directed by: Dan Friedman.
    Cast: Dave DeChristopher, Mika Duncan, Jennifer Herzog, Ross Stoner, Caroline Strong, Zenobia Shroff.
    La Mama Experimental Theater
    74A East 4th St.
    Feb. 7-24, 2002

    That doesn't mean that a such a racy-titled play can't be entertaining, but in the case of this new work by veteran playwright and critic Mario Fratti, it's about as big a thrill as a peck on the cheek.

    The play's strong point is comedic situations. A young sycophant, Guido, whose career as a musician has gone flat, cozies up to an Italian politician enough to get a plum no-stress political job — managing the star-studded San Michele cemetery. As he quickly discovers, the secluded location offers cover for a wealth of illicit activities, and the flowers aren't the only things getting laid alongside the gravestones.

    Among other uses, the place eventually serves as a hideout for our boy's patron senator, who's disgraced in one of the country's massive corruption scandals, as well as a shelter for a homeless friend waiting alongside his mother's coffin (which is equipped with a phone in case she should wake up) for his wealthy dad to die. Why let the potential of such a useful place go unrealized, figures Guido, coming up with schemes to make a lira or two off of cemetery sin.

    The trouble is that the play doesn't follow through on this elaborate sitcom premise with very much witty in the way of dialogue or plot developments — and most of what's potentially funny is only described from afar. In particular, the senator explains his blithe attitude toward his own bribery scandal at length but in flat style where the audience might expect something a little more outrageous. And the hanky-panky in the graveyard is aluded to in bland euphemisms — even if you're not going to show anything explicit, there's no comedy if nobody is shocked.

    So "Erotic Adventures in Venice" is a strange creature indeed — a comedy that blows its laugh lines; a story of sex and scandal in Italy with no Italian panache (and no Italian names in the cast); and a work by an experienced playwright that does too much telling and not enough showing. It's a lot more average than it ought to be.

    FEBRUARY 14, 2002

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