March 30, 2012

TGIF: Lina Wertmuller

"lina wertmuller"

What was an Italian movie director best known for "melodramatic tragicomedies characterized by an idiosyncratic blend of wit, irony, socialist dialectics, and sheer grotesquerie," and the first woman ever nominated for an Oscar as a director, doing in the New York Times Theater column? Directing her first American stage production, Love and Magic in Mama's Kitchen, at La Mama.

The play, originally commissed by Franco Zeffirelli who found the work too dark, was described by the director as "as a sort of Italian Sweeney Todd about Leonarda Cianciulli, who boiled her victims and made soap of them." It premiered at Spoleto Festival in Italy in 1979, ran for two weeks in New York in 1980, although Wertmuller was not in New York during its staging as she was preparing to direct another film. Nevertheless, she made sure that the entire production was brought over exactly as it was presented in Italy, down to the the exact same size stage as it had been presented on in a tent in Italy. She came to America in 1983 to revive the show which was to transfer to Broadway, but never did. Although Wertmuller was not in New York forits original production, she was interviewed by the Times who commissioned Hirschfeld for this portrait. 


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