Last Thursday night at the newly established Theatre 555 on 42nd St in Manhattan CELESTE MANCINELLI, related her remarkable One-Woman Show at the invitation of veteran producer, Eric Krebs, the landlord of the former Off- Broadway houses named after John Houseman and Douglas Fairbanks Jr that had been torn down on this legendary street of theater this past decade. To have this vibrant true account by Ms. Mancinelli was, indeed, a rejuvenating experience for this 160 seat theater filled with attendees and the street itself yearning for new life of live theater in our city that has been bereft for so long of that which helps this island breathe and tick.
Directed by RICHARD SABELLICO and first developed in the studio of the late and truly great director/teacher, WYNN HANDMAN over a considerable nurturing period, Mancinelli, an Off-B’way veteran herself, kept the house mesmerized with her true tale of dropping everything in her well-ordered domestic life in New Jersey and literally taking an historic hike of 200 miles through Spain to the sacred site of the Cathedral Santiago de Compostela, a destination rivaling Canterbury and Lourdes as far as religious and spiritual seekers over hundreds of years have been concerned.
” Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and take what comes” had been this traveler’s mantra wisely enough from her mother, and sure enough she encounters heaping measures of it all. What keeps the audience entranced is a lucid narrative, abundant humor. and deft storytelling amidst a large spectrum of comedy in her physical comportment, and seriously arresting vocal technique that manifests into song at the drop of a walking stick.
At first , this reviewer wasn’t certain that he was going to enjoy this journey, but within minutes, Mancinelli’s tale kept him enthralled for the slightly more than 90 minutes and was ultimately and pleasantly surprised at the substantial spiritual revelations that transpired by the end of her personal narrative of enthralling entertainment.
This was a One Night Only Event last week at this new house on 42nd St. but richly warrants reviving at any number of venues wishing to house a beautifully told, true story, joyously and expertly told for any audience warmed to struggle, humor, and redemptio
Review by Doug DeVita
Celeste Mancinelli went on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela with two elderly friends and a neatly packed backpack and has very graciously taken us along with her for a bumpy, at times harrowing, but mostly laugh out loud hilarious and ultimately life affirming journey.
Mancinelli is a born storyteller, and a gifted one; her knack for making even the most horrible deprivations of her seemingly endless walk across Spain both engaging and hilarious brings us into her world with breathtaking ease; she’s a rare combination of ballsy New Jersey Italian Broad and vulnerably self-effacing housewife and mother. And did I mention she is hilarious? Quick-witted with a lethal sense of comic timing, only she could bring down the house by muttering “Who the hell buys one pear for three people?” with such personally affronted authority.
Director Richard Sabellico’s smartly unintrusive direction belies its complexity. He allows Mancinelli to dominate, yet has showcased her beautifully by letting her larger-than-life personality fill the huge stage of Theater 555, making the space, the show, and the experience intimate, soulful, funny as hell, and ultimately, triumphant. Beautifully done.