Napoli, Brooklyn is a play about immigration and family dynamics in the 1960s that is just as relevant today as it was back then. Told with real heart, it’s a poignant story about feeling like you belong.
Telling the story of an Italian family that embark on stowing away to New York, they settle in the big city and have a family. We see Luda and Nic Muscolini struggle to feel like they belong as their daughters grow up with American culture. Clasping onto their traditional values and morals, it’s about how they balance their old lives with the new as they search for purpose.
It unpicks the fragilities involved in the relationships between mothers and daughters, fathers and daughters and sisters themselves. We see the three sisters grow up and evolve into three fearless young women as they discover who they are and what they want from the world.
We meet Tina (Mona Goodwin) who is slaving away in a factory dreaming of making a life for herself, Vita (Georgia May Foote) who has been sent to a convent after an altercation at home and Francesca (Hannah Bristow) who dreams of running away to France with her girlfriend Connie.
Madeline Worrall crafts the role of the mother, Luda with such delicacy. It is a complex role as she fights with providing a better life for her daughters and sticking by her abusive husband. The play centres beautifully around the Italian idea of food and meals bringing people together. Tied to an abusive relationship, she doesn’t see an easy way out and we go on that emotional journey with her throughout the show. Worrall has exceptional expression and captures Luda’s emotions with such conviction.
Hannah Bristow is feisty and conveys teenage angst so brilliantly as youngest sister Connie. In one of the scenes where she finally fights back at her dad, the theatre is left stunned to silence with her powerful aggression towards her father. Bristow’s use of timing in this scene is impeccable as it packs a real punch.
Stephen Hogan portrays the sensitive butcher well, who shows Luda sincere kindness. You do find yourself routing for these two character’s happiness and their relationship is endearing to watch unfold. Hogan contrasts well with Robert Cavanah as Luda’s wife Nic who is unbearably nasty and sparks great fear in his family. His inflamed outbursts pierce straight through you as he takes his lost identity on his family.
For a production with so many scenes that are constantly fluttering between each other, you do feel real empathy for the characters. Although the first act is slightly slow setting up the story, the second act really taps into the emotions – which is enhanced by the intimacy of the theatre.
Napoli, Brooklyn is a story of hope infused with Italian passion that is told in an engaging and heartfelt way.
On at the Park Theatre until the 13th July.