4 out of 4 stars
Zesty! Laugh out loud funny! Coming from a successful off-Broadway run, Candice Guardino stars in her self-authored work Italian Bred at Greenhouse Theater. This show illustrates just how much family can impact us as we grow older. Taking inspiration from her personal life, Guardino paints the picture of growing up Italian on Staten Island. Possessing a vast writing repertoire including 2015 CBS Comedy Showcase, various sitcoms, stage plays, screenplays and shorts, it is no wonder why this performance has such a strong and lasting impression. With energy and sass at the forefront, this one-woman show perfectly harmonizes drama with humor.
Through a series of vignettes, a vibrant family tree is brought to life with a spitfire matriarch at the center providing lessons on failure, womanhood, and love. Guardino portrays her “tell it to me straight” grandmother who epitomizes what a strong woman is, the importance of family and how to be your best self. Not only does she play her entire family, but celebrity virtual cameos by big names such as Mario Cantone, Vic DiBitdetto and others are a pleasant surprise to the single actor design and a fun addition to the narrative. A decision that helps redefine solo performance. Using video is a complex tactic that requires precise timing, which Guardino is highly impressive in and excels in her reactionary dialogue and conversational delivery.
It feels as if you are listening to your best friend tell you about the time her Grandma almost took a baseball bat to another driver’s head for cutting her off. By laughing along with the audience and making quips, one can tell the heart put into this piece and joy of sharing these stories. The vignettes of Guardino’s childhood are fresh and dynamic by careful use of blocking, which creates depth and engages the audience. Spotlight soliloquies and dash of music adds flare to this diary performance. Ballads of self-discovery blended with side-splitting jokes and personal anecdotes. While opening night audio volumes were slightly off, Guardino stuns with a remarkable voice.
From learning to make meatballs to learning how to drive, Italian Bred is a true coming of age story with a little bit of spice. Guardino’s movement and stage presence was flawless and never missed a beat. A well-oiled machine, enjoying every moment retelling the stories of her past. Enriching and sincere, you will leave the theater smiling thinking fondly of your own family and all the crazy stories that come with them.
Performance runs now through May 28th at Greenhouse Theater, located at 2257 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL. Tickets available online at www.greenhousetheater.org and by phone 773-404-7336. For more information on Italian Bred, please visit http://italianbredshow.com
Mary Crylen is a photographer and writer based in Chicago. She is an alum of Southern Illinois University of Carbondale with a B.A. in English and a B.A. in Photography. She possesses a sincere passion for the arts and believes zeal shows through work. Follow her on Twitter!