Presented by The Inkwell Theater, the world premier of “Luigi” by Louise Munson is currently a guest production at VS Theatre. Annie McVey directs the show which features Ray Xifo (as Luigi), Helen Duffy (as Mariella), Erin McIntosh (as Anna), Stephanie Sanchez (as Diana), Nicola Bertram (as Maria), Gian Franco Tordi (as Paolo) and Ryan Plourde (as Max).
Munson is a recipient of the Max K. Lerner Playwriting Fellowship, the 2013 Walter E. Dakin Fellowship at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and was a Liam Rector Scholar at Bennington College. She says inspiration for “Luigi” started with an image of a “teenage girl in a flower crown reading poetry into a tape recorder in the dead of night.” She sat with that image. Then her Uncle Luigi Vignolo died in Milan. Although she says she had not been particularly close to him, “he always made a big impression on me.”
Stories she heard growing up about Luigi’s depression and amazing recovery, as well as his genuine “sense of humor and cheerful spirit” revealed his character. Combining her desire to write a play or film about her mother’s family in Italy with her “many magical, surreal moments in the summers in Italy visiting” those family members, led her to recapture those moments in this show.
“The initial image of the girl grew to include the fictional version of Luigi, nearing the end of his life peacefully, and with a certain humorous acceptance,” she explains. “I was lucky enough to have been surrounded by a completely different way of life, and sensibility (in Italy), and I absorbed so much. So that is also something I wanted to capture.
“At the heart of this play is the friendship between a 13-year-old and the uncle that she has never before met. I wanted to capture one of those brief and subtle life-altering moments that people can have when they’re in a new, strange place and find themselves connecting to others who may not even speak the same language. It’s funny how we often remember a handful of moments more clearly than some whole months, or even years of our lives.”
“I hope most audiences experience a good night of theater that makes them feel stuff and generally uplifts and moves them and gives them that generous feeling good storytelling can give you.”
McVey, a member of the Playwrights Horizons' Directing faculty met Munson through theater projects and they developed a relationship. McVey recalls, “We were putting together our first season of plays for the Inkwell Theater LAB, and I reached out to Louise to see if she had any plays to submit. She submitted ‘Luigi’ and I directed the staged reading of it for the LAB. After that, Inkwell Artistic Director Daniel Shoenman, who was a champion of the play from the get-go, decided to produce a full production of the play, and now, many months later, here we are!”
She says she hopes “Luigi” will stick with audiences “long after they leave the theater. I believe they will. The writing is so gorgeous, the characters are so lovable and engaging and well drawn, and the design is extremely beautiful and evocative. I hope that the play reminds people of those moments in their lives when time seemed to expand, when they were able to connect fully and completely, when life seemed pregnant with possibilities and new paths.”
“Luigi” performs 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through August 16, 2014. Tickets are $10-$20. Visit http://www.inkwelltheater.com/ for reservations.
VS Theatre is located at 5453 W. Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles.