Gioia in Wonderland!

The 9th Envelope

By Gioia De Cari
Directed by James A. Lopata
Spotlight On Productions
The Raw Space
Non-union production
Review by Andrès J. Wrath

The bio of Gioia De Cari says, "never one to be easily classified." This statement rings true of her dazzling performance in her one-woman show The 9th Envelope, presented by Frank Calo's Spotlight On Productions.

In The 9th Envelope, Ms. De Cari enacts two separate personalities: her self and her alter ego, Elsa, who travels to the magical wonderland of Haight-Ashbury, in San Francisco. Gioia, who expounds on the poetry of roses, and Elsa are both searching for amazement and adventure. The evening starts off with Elsa, the Valley Girl Alice in San Franciscoland, who after getting cryptic messages in black envelopes goes on a journey much like Alice in Lewis Carroll's novel. Intercut in the nine chapter's of Elsa's journey are the interludes of Gioia's own search for poetry.

The material, which was most of the time engaging, could have used a little more present-tense action. If we are to go with Elsa's adventure, then it would have benefited the evening if we discovered things as she did - as opposed to what has already happened and her reporting what it is she has already seen. Also the evening had a mathematical equation built into the puzzle, and did not need the explanation of all of the above in the choices of the evening's final audience interaction. It would be stronger if the evening's options in the audience-participation portion were limited to an unlikely explanation of the events of the evening. Regardless, a lot of the evening was filled with humor and pathos. The witty takeoffs on Alice in Wonderland and the monologues about logic vs. poetry were extremely affecting.

The evening belonged to the captivating Gioia De Cari, who was radiant and very funny. She presented two sides of herself: the sensual and alluring Gioia of the present and her fictional alter ego, which was frantic and searching for the meaning of the adventure. In both cases, De Cari commanded the stage with energy, poise and range.

Director James A. Lopata succeeded in giving the evening focus and clarity, as well as making the show look visually interesting. Like Gioia's riffs about shapes and their logical origins, Lopata was very attuned to the symmetrical use of the space and shapes in the piece. Here, every inch of the stage and some of the audience was covered, causing an inviting flow of energy. The striking set, by John Cowan, consisted of a black-and-white checkered floor and a cube that Lopata used from every angle.

The lighting, also by Cowan, was beautiful, illuminating elements of the evening that the script only suggested. The blue dress by Catherine Webster-Emery lent the right touch of the modern and fairytale elements of the evening.
Box Score:

Acting: 2
Writing: 1
Directing: 2
Sets: 2
Lights: 2
Costumes: 2

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Copyright 2000 Andrès J. Wrath