AISLE SAY Berkshires & Environs


Based on Una Giornata Particolare
by Ettore Scola and Ruggero Maccari
Adapted by Gigliola Fantoni
Translated by Danya Taymor, Ana Graham and Antonio Vega
Directed and performed by Ana Graham and Antonio Vega

Barrington Stage Company
St. Germain Stage
June 18 – July 6

Reviewed by Joel Greenberg  


I count myself more than lucky to have seen the final performance of Working on a Special Day, a 90-minute adaptation of the Italian film, Una Giornata Particolare”. That film (1977) starred Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni and won many international awards. At the St. Germain Stage, the smaller Barrington Stage Company venue, the story is told in a two-character adaptation, directed and performed by Ana Graham and Antonio Vega. They also share credit for the translation with Danya Taymor. And what they have achieved is a model of how live and filmed experiences neither compete nor really compare with each other. The Play Company and Por Piedad Teatro, the producing bodies that have created Working on a Special Day, demonstrate that the stage and the screen coexist and succeed separately, each in its own distinctive way.


Graham and Vega begin by welcoming the audience, explaining that they are Mexican artists who will be playing Italian characters, using Italian accents. They encourage the audience to talk as they don costumes and set up up the bare stage for the story yet to unfold. And the stage, a literal black box of three walls with two entrances in the upstage wall, is set with a table, a couple of chairs and an assortment of ordinary hand props. Nothing more. And as the actors morph into the characters of Antonietta and Gabriele, we are drawn into the world that they are just beginning to create. And they create realities by the most modest means imaginable – chalk line drawings on the walls that become the windows, the telephone, the birdcage and much else that is required for them (and, by extension, us) to live their daily lives. And it is this vision that elevates the story into a theatrical life unique and inspiring.


The story is set on the day in 1938 when Hitler arrived in Rome to consolidate his pact with Mussolini. Antonietta, a mother of six and wife of a miserable philanderer, meets Gabriele, a former radio announcer now trying to avoid arrest by the Fascisti, who round up and exile (or worse) homosexuals. Their unlikely meeting leads to unlikely revelations. In less skilled hands, the story might have suggested a happy ending or a resolution to lives lived in such loneliness, but the original screenplay avoids sentiment in favour of the limited pleasure that these people and their circumstances can afford.


Movie magic is made with technology supported by vast sums of money. Theatre magic is derived from the wealth of imagination and is most potent when it seems so simple (as in ‘cheap’), so obvious and still so singular. And that is what lends this production its remarkable power. Graham and Vega exploit the widest range possible of theatrical styles and devices without ever losing their grasp of the story, its characters and their connection with their audience.


Thanks to Barrington Stage Company for having the good taste to bring this project to their audiences. And thanks, many times over, to The Play Company and Por Piedad Teatro for having had the inspiration to create this gem.

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