The three-part epic of the Rosato family reaches a moving conclusion with “The Carpenter.” The world premiere of the final episode of Vittorio Rossi’s autobiographical trilogy effectively completes the picture begun over the Centaur Theater’s last two seasons in “Hellfire Pass” and continued in “Carmela’s Table.” It also wraps the family saga in an additional layer of complexity as Rossi’s alter ego, Luciano, describes his playwriting process.
The new play focuses on the disintegration of 82-year-old family patriarch Silvio (David Calderisi) through the final two years of his life, as the curtains of Alzheimer’s disease close around him. There are fewer and fewer moments of clarity, replaced by tormented reliving of past events, until those, too, recede.
But the family’s closeness remains. Although Silvio spends his last days in a hospice, his family is constantly at his side. Luciano (Andreas Apergis) is determined to pay tribute to his father through the plays he intends to write, but there is some doubt whether Silvio is still able to pass the stories of his life on to his son.
A well-chosen ensemble cast and uniformly fine performances — particularly from Patricia Yeatman as she demonstrates the older Carmela’s intense loyalty and commitment to family — combined with sensitive direction from Gordon McCall make this passionate focus on family life and love a powerful theatrical event.
Among the production’s highlights is the carefully wrought contrast between the vitality of the younger Silvio (Richard Zeppieri) and the frustrated anger of his older self. Zeppieri reprises the role of the carpenter from the first two plays with similar power and precision, while Calderisi offers a subtle depiction of the downward slide into darkness.
Rossi’s dramatization of the stories of his father, the model for Silvio, were at the heart of the previous two plays. As Silvio nears his end, the torch passes to Carmela and her view of their life together. The primary focus remains on Silvio and Carmela, young and old, leaving their children to depict characteristics more clearly than characters: the narrator and only son Luciano, the practical daughter Liliana (Giovanna Carrubba) and the flighty daughter Maria (Ellen David), who gave her parents grandchildren as well as headaches.
One step below is the memory character Dave (Guido Cocomello), Silvio’s friend from the past, and Dr. Lewis, the latter saddling Paula Costain with the unenviable task of injecting life into a thinly written, utilitarian role.
Sole other negative aspect of an otherwise first-class coda to memorable family saga is the playwright’s unwillingness to say goodbye. “The Carpenter” would have been even more effective had it ended at Silvio’s deathbed rather than continuing well beyond that natural conclusion.