Boston Center for the Arts
“Sixteenth-century commedia dell’arte certainly didn’t shy away from crudity,” said Sandy MacDonald in Theatermania.com. But playwright David Grimm’s recreation of the form “pushes the envelope” from the opening line— “To hell with my virginity”—uttered by the sheltered ingénue Flaminia. Her duenna soon provides instructions on how to lose said virginity, which Flaminia follows with not one but two traveling actors, the rapscallion Tristano and the blockheaded Matteo. But they turn out to be more interested in each other than in any ménage à trois. Grimm peppers scenes such as these with a “contemporary sensibility” and more curse words than a rap song, but the characters are too loosely drawn, and the humor insufficient, to pull The Miracle at Naples out of the gutter.
Grimm is true to the essence of commedia dell’arte in the sense that “no double-entendre goes unpushed, no comic flourish unembellished,” said Louise Kennedy in The Boston Globe. The play concerns an itinerant theatrical troupe that wreaks havoc on Naples for two days during the feast of its patron saint, San Gennaro. But the playwright seems more interested in making a point about hidebound morality than he is in crafting a comedy. There’s a bit of preachiness inherent in many of Naples’ scenes, a sort of “Look how funny this all is—and think how silly the world is not to be this free-spirited.” The carefree spirit provides for plenty of fleeting entertainment, but it’s a bit “odd to sit through two hours of profanity-larded, crotch-grabbing, bosom-heaving comedy and come away feeling as if you’ve been read a sermon.”