Monday, December 21, 2009

Review: Sicilian Tragedee by Ottavio Cappellani

Not a book for everybody, particularly the homophobic, this is one of the funniest, most original I've read this year. Cappellani gives us a cast of characters that seem to have come from "the Sopranos", "Soap", and "The Birdcage". There are competing mafiosi, bitchy wives and mistresses, divas and queens (of both genders), contessas, barones and other assorted broken down aristocrats and enough bumbling politicians to populate a good sized congressional committee staff. And you have to love every one of them.

I've spent several weeks in Catania Sicily (the setting for the book) and visited much of the surrounding area, so this one was especially fun for me. However, I don't think you need to have been there to enjoy it.

Billed as a farce, and a take-off on Romeo and Juliet (try Romeo and Mercutio as the love interest!!), it involves the courtship of a mafioso's daughter Betty by another up and coming 'business man'.  Betty's father desparately wants to get her married off and out of his hair, and Betty's gay companion Carmine trys to help this endeavor along.  In addition to marrying off Betty, we are treated to the attempts by an over-drugged and highly emotional director/producer (Cagnotto) to find financing and sponsorship-as well as a venue-for his less than standard production of Shakespeare. He must also convince a bunch of aging actors (and one outrageous actress) of the wisdom of his "vision", all the while trying to maintain the affection of his latest lover "Bobo"  When you insert the meddling of the aging and devious Contessa Salieri, you have the ingredients for a true soap opera. Here, for example is her philosphy on giving parties (pg.132):
The contessa says that the guests, before they arrive at the party must be tested: first you make it hard for them to find a place to park, then you make them walk down a dark path lit by candles and (lined) with the gay waiters, and finally, when they arrive, you treat them badly and don't acknowledge their presence.  The Contessa says the point of this is to get the husbands and the wives to quarrel, so that they won't say a word to each other all evening, but will talk to other people out of spite, and then you have a good party.

A murder or two (it is the mafia after all) brings in more 'family members' as the plot keeps twisting. In the end it is a farce so exuberant in its mockery, that I suspect Shakespeare would have loved it.

Be warned: it is ribald, naughty, bawdy, raucous, coarse, vulgar, crude rude and lewd, and probably will be offensive to many (there is certainly a generous sprinkling of the 'f' word) but if you can take it as a spoof, or a glorious Sicilian soap opera, it is uproariously funny.  Yes, I'm Italian, and my father's generation probably would not particularly care for this portrayal except that it's set in Sicily, and for them, that's not quite Italian.  If you're looking for a good belly-laugh and very clever plotting, try this one.  I don't think it will disappoint.


Post a Comment

Welcome, thanks for stopping by. Now that you've heard our two cents, perhaps you have a few pennies to throw into the discussion. Due to a bunch more anonymous spam getting through, I've had to disallow anonymous comments. I try to respond to all comments posing a question, but may not always get to you right away.