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Theatre Review (Singapore): ‘Working on a Special Day’

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Inspired by the 1977 Italian film Una Giornata Particolare which starred Sophia Loren, Working on a Special Day presented by Por Piedad Teatro and The Play Company was featured as part of M1 Singapore Fringe Festival, and played at the Esplanade Theatre Studio, on January 16 and 17 2014.

Working on a Special Day starts on the day Hitler is to pay a visit to fascist Italy run by Benito Mussolini. As the residents of a block of apartments run to the streets to welcome Hitler, harried housewife Antonietta (Ana Graham) and shy radio presenter Gabriele (Antonio Vega) are left in the building. When Antonietta’s bird makes an escape and lands near the Gabriele’s window, the chance meeting between the two sparks off a series of frank discussions and disclosures that ends up making the day special for each of them in a very different way from the rest of the country.

In planning to present this play, which they had written, as the debut of their Por Piedad Teatro in America, Graham and Vega realized their natural Mexican accents would be a problem, and ingeniously decided that an Italian accent would be a better guise and therefore more acceptable for American audiences to hear.

The issue of fascism and Mussolini’s harsh rule is not tackled heavily (and rightfully so as this isn’t a historical or political story); rather, the play centres on the character study of two people. The script delves into the deep psyches of both characters to show us multidimensional people struggling with their lives in different ways. Hence this production enthralled with its witty and insightful dialogue, handled ably by both thespians.

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Graham especially shined in her role as Antonietta, with her consistent Italian accent and her distinct vibe of an overworked and under-appreciated housewife. Vega’s Gabriele started shyly, but evolved into a violent and frustrated man with a dark secret. Both were a delight to watch.

In addition, Graham and Vega creatively used chalk and board to carry the story forward, allowing mistakes to happen in the drawings, which they would then erase swiftly and re-draw. This tactic – along with dressing and talking to the audience at the start of the first act – broke the fourth wall of theatre and brought the viewer even more intimately into the day of Antonietta and Gabriele. And what a complicated, creative, exciting, layered, and special day it is indeed!

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About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

Ex-professor, Ex-phd student, current freelance critic, writer and filmmaker.