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Review: Made in Italy

By Vama Saini, November 28 2023—

Made in Italy is a remarkable one-man show featuring the talented Farren Timoteo, who embodies multiple characters in this comedic and heartfelt production. Set against the backdrop of an Italian immigrant family’s journey to Canada in the 1970s, the play delves into themes of identity, cultural clashes and the intricacies of parent-child relationships.

Timoteo’s performance is a testament to his versatility as an actor, singer and comedian. The narrative follows the life of Salvatore Mantini, an Italian immigrant, and his son Francesco, navigating the challenges of growing up in a new country while grappling with his father’s old-world traditions.

Timoteo seamlessly transitions between characters, infusing each with distinct accents and gestures. The portrayal of the family dynamics resonates with a collective familiarity, with characters that evoke echoes of people we all know — from the melodramatic aunt to the drunk uncle and the classic dad humour, adding a comforting touch of relatability to the audience.

Salvatore’s journey from Italy to working on the railway in Jasper, his efforts to establish a home for his family and the subsequent challenges faced by Francesco are portrayed with depth and authenticity. Timoteo skillfully weaves the tale of Francesco’s struggle with being an outsider, juxtaposed with his father’s attempts to instill Italian traditions.

The Mantini family’s return to Italy adds a comedic touch, with Timoteo humorously portraying Francesco’s exploration of style and sexuality. The return transforms Francesco, instilling in him a newfound confidence to stand up to bullies, realizing he is not considered to be “weird’ or an “outsider” in Italy.

The play explores Francesco’s journey from being an outcast to confidently asserting his identity, using humour as a coping mechanism for life’s adversities. Timoteo’s impeccable comic timing shines as Francesco discovers the world of Rocky movies, undergoes physical transformations and embraces his newfound confidence.

Amidst the laughter, the play skillfully addresses deeper themes, portraying the strain between Salvatore and Francesco. As they live in entirely different worlds, the growing disconnect results in the loss of contact between the father and son.

Salvatore’s pride in Francesco’s beautiful voice culminates in moments of opera, Bee Gees covers and eventually Sinatra-style crooning as Frank Martin in Edmonton. While Francesco and Salvatore were not in direct contact during Francesco’s time as a star in Edmonton, a mutual admiration existed, with both too proud to initiate reconnection.

Timoteo captivates the audience with his outstanding writing and performance. The plot’s progression, cleverly represented by the phases of an Italian meal, adds a unique touch to the storytelling. From learning Italian swear words to the significance of saving salad for the end, the play offers a rich exploration of Italian traditions.

While rooted in the immigrant experience, the script transcends into a universal narrative of self-discovery and acceptance. Timoteo skillfully captures the essence of familial bonds and the struggle to balance tradition with modernity.

Made in Italy offers valuable insights into Italian culture, language and the immigrant experience. Timoteo’s ability to carry the entire show single-handedly makes it a standout experience that balances entertainment with an exploration of cultural nuances.

Learn more about Made in Italy and similar productions on the Theatre Calgary website.

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