Sign up for our free newsletter

Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.

I’d imagine that, besides works of Shakespeare, the most popular supplier of audition monologues for stage hopefuls would be Eduardo de Filippo’s Filumena. There are just so damn many of them, at least in the Stanislavsky Theater Studio’s partly improvised version. Pretty much the only present-day action that takes place is the characters’ regurgitation of what’s been happening for the past 25 years, brought on by the title character’s duplicitous means of persuading her longtime live-in lover, Domenico (Ted Pugh), to marry her. A former prostitute, Filumena (Fern Sloan) has three grown sons, one of them by Domenico—though none of the four know about the others—and Filumena suddenly wants to make a respectable family of them. But we don’t see the faked deathbed scene that led to Filumena’s and Domenico’s first marriage; we don’t see their legitimate wedding 10 months later, after a bitter annulment; we don’t get to see much of anything except the couple and their friends blabbing about their lives. The second act is a bit livelier than the first, thanks to the increased presence of the actors playing Filumena’s sons, Umberto (Seamus Maynard), Riccardo (Dale March), and Michele (Pier Carthew), who formerly appeared as bumbling waiters. A scene in which Domenico attempts to deduce which of the men is his offspring is the play’s best, showcasing the comic abilities of each of the actors. In fact, the production in general is at its best when it’s most bumbling, in keeping with the company’s goal: paying homage to the tradition of commedia dell’arte. Director Andrei Malaev-Babel encouraged the actors not to tackle their characters directly but to play actors (who are introduced at the beginning) playing improvisational characters in wildly different styles. Sloan, for example, delivers all of her lines with consistently dramatic (but resultingly comic) weight better suited to a Shakespearean finale, whereas Jessica Cerullo as Lucia, a “postmodern, neorealistic Italian housemaid,” scampers around the stage in a manner more appropriate to farce. The actors who aren’t part of a given scene wait in the wings just offstage, in the audience’s view, and there are frequent lines such as “That was my scene!” to give the production more the feel of a strangely hostile rehearsal than a polished, professional show. These whimsical touches, unfortunately, too often get buried under Filumena’s never-ending exposition, ultimately making the 25-year history covered in the play feel just about right. —Tricia Olszewski