Vittorio Rossi’s play showcases artistic vision and conflict
Packed full of bright characters and big personalities, The Envelope was a wonderful glimpse into the life of theatre and film industry workers.
The premiere at the Centaur Theatre was a firecracker of a show. The play is Montreal playwright and director Vittorio Rossi’s 10th to be produced at the Centaur, opening on March 26th to a full house with an energetic crowd.
It is never easy, in theatre, to make the audience feel as though they’re peering in on a private moment. Yet, that is exactly what Rossi did with The Envelope, providing the audience with that feeling of trust, intimacy, and secrecy.
This play centres around an Italian playwright, who is considering two offers for the film rights to his newest play, Romeo Rises. One offer is from a Canadian filmmaker who can give him a large amount of money up front. In Rossi’s world, the Canadian film industry is somewhat notorious for taking original scripts and twisting them into something different from the playwright’s intentions. The counter-offer is from an indie filmmaker in Los Angeles who can’t offer the same budget, but has connections to large companies and the potential for bigger audiences.
The set consisted of a cozy Italian restaurant and the street that runs in front of it. The restaurant was warm, beautifully decorated, and felt familiar. The lighting design, as it always seems to be at the Centaur, was exquisite. It created a welcoming vibe in the restaurant as well as a delicate evening glow in the street.
The characters in the show were lively and captivating, but two actors in particular stood out in this performance. Tony Calabretta, who played restaurant owner Franco, portrayed a down-to-earth, no-nonsense Italian man who came across very honestly. Calabretta’s energy and passion really brought the character to life.
The other bright point in the cast was Shawn Campbell, who played Andrew, one of the actors in Romeo Rises. Andrew’s character is a pretty typical stage actor (“ac-TOR!” as is said in the play) who loves his work, complains about everything, and adores himself. Campbell brought so much to the role without overdoing it. Everything from the way he walked, the way he interacted with other characters, and the way he shaped his words was perfectly placed. He managed to make Andrew a fun character without being so conceited that the audience was unavoidably annoyed with him.
The script itself was quite well-written. The language sparkled throughout the show, and the exchanges between characters were conversational and genuine. Rossi also wove some things into the script to make it self-aware but, again, without overdoing it. The playwright character makes reference to the set he envisions for the play Romeo Rises, which consists of an Italian restaurant with a visible street in front (sound familiar?)
The Envelope is a fascinating view of the professional art world. It’s a must-see for anyone who is interested in the Canadian film industry or aspires to work professionally in any art business. The show asks a lot of questions about the way our country supports its artists, and that’s an important message that should be heard.
The Envelope is being staged at the Centaur theatre until April 19th.