“Carmela’s Table,” now being given its world premiere at Montreal’s Centaur Theater, is part two of award-winning playwright Vittorio Rossi’s ambitious autobiographical “A Carpenter’s Trilogy.” It takes place six months after the events of the first installment — the successful “Hellfire Pass,” which preemed at the Centaur in February. In both, the focus is on Silvio Rosato — the carpenter of the trilogy title, who’s based on Rossi’s father.
“Hellfire Pass,” which took place in Chicago, exploded with the revelation of unpalatable truths about Silvio’s father and his second wife. “Carmela’s Table,” set in Ville Emard, Montreal, concentrates on the equally explosive unresolved conflict between Silvio and his mother, Filomena, and his relationship with his wife, Carmela.
The table the carpenter builds for his wife is a symbol of family stability, just as Carmela is portrayed as the rock that gives Silvio strength to overcome the destructive legacy of his experiences in World War II.
Like part one, “Carmela’s Table” is top-heavy in exposition in the first act; as it moves from presenting family tensions to honoring family ties, it builds toward a strong conclusion. There is dramatic power here, but at a much lower pitch than in “Hellfire Pass.” This may be partly because the side of right is less clear and partly because the playwright appears intent on honoring his mother through the drama when the nub of the conflict is between Silvio and his mother.
But, second time out, the volatile Rosato family still offers passion through familial drama.
Director Gordon McCall has wisely opted for the same design team and same actor, Richard Zeppieri, for Silvio’s return appearance. Once again, Zeppieri depicts the hair-trigger tautness of the disturbed war veteran highly effectively. Anita La Selva’s Carmela is all about love and understanding for husband and family, while Mary Long’s Filomena focuses on self-pity. The underwritten roles for neighbors Dave Damonti and Neva Esposito are utilitarian and give actors Guido Cocomello and Nadia Verrucci little room for dramatic development.
“Carmela’s Table” leaves the door open for more news about the Rosato family. The trilogy’s final part — as yet untitled — is scheduled for Centaur next season.