Fedeli d'Amore (Love's Faithful) is a "polyptych in seven panels for Dante Alighieri" by Marco Martinelli and Ermanna Montanari. Before the show, Martinelli addressed the audience (alongside an English translator) and explained the cultural significance of the piece. Dante Alighieri was an Italian poet and philosopher known for depicting heaven, hell and purgatory. Dante died of a painful fever from Malaria and his remains lay in the home city of the playwright. In the play, Montanari embodies seven voices: a fog, a demon, a donkey, an imp, Italy, Dante's daughter and "an end that is not an end." The show invokes Dante "while embracing a single salvation: Love is what makes us rebel; it is the force that liberates and elevates."
Martinelli wrote the piece for Montanari because of her vocal research and aptitude. She is exceptionally talented, as she managed to voice so many distinct characters. Her range of vocal expression is impressive. She is able to convincingly give voice to these inhumane and, at times, nonliving entities. For example, her raspy, rattling voice for the fog captures one's imagined vision of a fog voice. And this fog voice is entirely distinct from the voice of the donkey Montanari plays in the third panel, as she brays and stomps around the stage. In addition to her commanding vocal presence, Montanari does a great job of physically embodying the characters. She is able to transform successfully, even while standing behind a music stand for the majority of the piece. When she does move from the music stand, her physicality is even more compelling. It makes me wish she was free to take control of the stage for the whole piece instead of standing behind the music stand.
The trumpet played by Simone Marzocchi was powerful and transformative. Marzocchi was able to amplify and uplift the text and Montanari's performance with his talented musicianship. The sound design by Marco Olivieri was enveloping, unique and dynamic. The blaring of the trumpet with the layering of sound broadcasted through different speakers helped facilitate transitions between the various panels and transported the audience into a different realm.
The technical elements greatly boosted the piece's production value. The use of projections, lighting, wind/fog and curtains created an impressive technical world for this solo show. These technical pieces helped the play cover many significant topics with only one actor. For example, in one of the panels, projections of stocks and business people flashed as Montanari laments man's obsession with wealth.
This play was wildly ambitious, not only acting out seven panels but tackling complex themes such as greed, love and death. The show would have proved more successful if Martinelli had zoomed in on what he wanted the audience to take away from the piece. I understand the use of multiple characters to show the universality of these ideas; however, a couple of the characters felt a little too similar, namely the demon and the imp.
Many of the audience were Italian, providing a rare viewing experience and creating moments of empathy and connection. Projected subtitles allowed American audiences to follow the action. This play allows for a peek into Italian art and culture and that is illuminating and fascinating.
“Fedeli d’Amore (Love’s Faithful)”
Written and Directed by Marco Martinelli
Performed by Ermanna Montanari
January 26 -28, 2023
La MaMa Downstairs Theatre (66 East 4 Street)
Italian with English subtitles
Carmen is a Brooklyn-based writer and actor, originally from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, currently based in Brooklyn. They have worked with prominent theaters off-Broadway and regionally. Their mission is to use play to create artful representation by and for underrepresented communities. In addition to theatre, Carmen holds love in their heart for drag performance, crafting, a good memoir and their cats. www.carmenburbridge.info