For the past two weekends, students of the Italian Studies program performed La Mandragola (The Mandrake) in CC1080. Their performance was an adaptation of Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli’s classic comedy, La Mandragola. Throughout the year, students of ITA315 produced their rendition of La Mandragola alongside the director, Teresa Lobalsamo, and producers, Adriana Grimaldi and Paolo Frasca, belong to the faculty of UTM’s Italian Studies Program.
La Mandragola is a tale about a love triangle, social expectations, and human nature. Nicia (Kory Shubrook), who’s married to the wealthy, albeit ugly, Lucrezia (Alessandra Mannella/Simone Stallone), is unwilling to produce an heir for his overbearing parents, Ramondo (Miguel Cabral) and Sostrata (Noor Al-Lababidi). Desperate for Nicia’s affection, Lucrezia falls into a scheme devised by her friend Liguria (Larysa Bablak), a noblewoman Cleandra (Bianca Freitas/Sabrina Giatti), and Cleandra’s servant, Sira (Vanessa Monardo).
Liguria convinces Lucrezia to see a doctor, claiming it will help her win the desire of Nicia. However, the “doctor” in question is actually Cleandra in disguise. Cleandra, who also desires Nicia, convinces Lucrezia to give her husband a drink made of the Mandrake root. Afterwards, as part of the plan, Nicia must have sex with another woman so that he will feel attracted to Lucrezia. Unbeknownst to Lucrezia, the whole plan is a plot for Cleandra to get in bed with Nicia.
The set of the play was simple, yet beautifully engrossing. A mural of the Virgin Mary was positioned center stage, while the beige overtones of the background subtly highlighted the vivid colours of the actors’ costumes. Cleandra’s elegant, green dress particularly stood out to me. The length and shape of her dress, compared to the modest clothing of the other actors, nicely represented her seductive motivations. Alternatively, Liguria’s classy, somewhat matronly costume complemented her manipulative character. Lucrezia’s make-up and attire rendered the actresses absolutely unrecognizable. With a unibrow, unkempt hair, and a prominent mole, Lucrezia was the epitome of classical unattractiveness.
There were many memorable moments in the performance. The scene in the Act II where Lucrezia meets “Doctor” Cleandra was a particularly funny scene. The scene was accompanied by jaunty, anachronistic music, as Lucrezia repeatedly fell for Cleandra’s scheme. Sorella Timotea (Adwoa Asare), a greedy nun who is also part of the scheme, had the audience laughing on many occasions. Sostrata’s solemnness and Ramondo’s masculinity were hilarious contrasts to the childishness of the other characters, as were Sira’s self-aware monologues between acts.
La Mandragola was both refreshingly humorous and deeply intriguing. The play was spoken in Italian, however, for those non-Italian speakers like myself, subtitles were projected on a screen in the background. The performance was arguably engaging enough that it didn’t need subtitles. La Mandragola offered a glimpse into the dynamic of UTM’s Italian Studies program. You could see the effort and dedication that the students and professors put into the creation of this performance. The play was a lighthearted journey of mixed emotions and provocative humour.
La Mandragola ran in CC 1080 from February 25-26 and from March 4-5.