Jacob Pinion and Doug Kreeger
in The Last Castrato
(© Ashley Anderson)
Jacob Pinion and Doug Kreeger
in The Last Castrato
(© Ashley Anderson)
An accomplished countertenor named Joseph Hill graces The Last Castrato, a new play at the Connelly Theater complete with gorgeous interludes featuring excerpts of Mozart, Puccini, and Gregorian chant. Unfortunately, the golden-voiced, commanding Hill is the only highlight of this poorly conceived play about real-life singer Alessandro Moreschi.

Without question, Moreschi (played by Jacob Pinion) and his often-tragic fellow castrati (who were part of an operatic tradition dating back to the 1500s) are fascinating topics for drama; but playwright Guy Frederick Glass gets trapped between genres. Is this a lyrical tragedy? A farce with evil Disney villains? An innuendo-laden satire? A better writer could straddle such disparate styles or, at least, choose among them.

While the real Moreschi was in his mid-40s at the time this piece is set, this production romantically conceives him as a younger man. But it might have been a compelling enough story if it had stuck closer to the historical record. That, however, would have required, for starters, far more persuasive depictions of the Vatican officials involved, including Pope Pius X.

Worse still, Glass' plotting is haphazard. When characters fall in love with each other, the playwright tells us about it rather than allow it to unfold naturally. When one central character is no longer needed, he's dispensed with in an offstage death that we don't learn about until much later. An onstage death is barely more convincing.

Director John Henry Davis does the play few favors. Nor does he serve his cast, including Off-Broadway favorite Doug Kreeger, well -- although Melissa Miller as a rich young patron of Moreschi manages to rise above her material.