Italian company Teatro Del Carretto’s original, adult-oriented adaptation of the classic fairy tale Pinocchio, currently being presented by La MaMa E.T.C., is energetic and inventive, and the presentation forgoes a linear narrative progression in favor of a more dreamlike quality. However, while a helpful plot summary and scene breakdown is included in the program, audience members who don’t speak Italian may still feel somewhat frustrated by the production, since there are no subtitles or simultaneous translations offered.
When we first see Pinocchio (Giandomenico Cupaiuolo, who has a marvelous physical presence and a seemingly endless reservoir of energy), he is being trained by a lion tamer to act in a circus. We follow his adventures as he interacts with other puppets in the Fire-Eater’s Grand Theater, is deceived and robbed by the cat and the fox, is rescued by the Fairy (Elsa Bossi), gets thrown into prison, and much more. Interestingly, while he talks to his father Geppetto frequently, the old puppet maker is not physically represented in the story. His absence is keenly felt by Pinocchio, although the Fairy fills the role of surrogate parent and helps the puppet on his journey to become a man.
Adapter/director Maria Grazia Cipriani keeps the pace brisk, and the majority of the action is performed in broad enough terms that even non-Italian-speaking audience members can grasp the basic gist of what is going on. The physical comedy sequences, such as Pinocchio’s refusal to drink his medicine, are the most successful, while it’s much harder to understand what’s going on during Pinocchio’s lengthier monologues.
Elements of spectacle, such as a ring of fire that Pinocchio must jump through, are also included. There is a distinct Commedia influence to the staging, made most obvious by the inclusion of an Arlecchino figure and the use of masks by the actors, including Giacomo Pecchia, Giacomo Vezzani, Nicolo Belliti, Jonathan Bertolai, Carlo Gambaro, and Elena Nene Barini, all of whom portray multiple roles.
The action plays out on Graziano Gregori’s arena-like set, composed of a semi-circular enclosure, with multiple doors. Gregori’s costumes are mostly tattered white undergarments, occasionally supplemented by splashes of black or red. The men are often bare chested, and the overall look lends a more impoverished feel to the characters depicted. Indeed, this version of Pinocchio takes its cues from Carlo Collodi’s original story, emphasizing some of the darker aspects to that tale while also extrapolating from it in an innovative manner.