A decade later Mambo Italiano is still relevant

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The fact Mambo Italiano was written over ten years ago isn’t the only surprising thing about this Canadian comedy about coming out and acceptance.  What might come as more of a surprise is that it was originally written and performed as a stage play three years before it became a homegrown indie hit on film.

Francisco Trujillo“There are really no differences between the film and the stage play,” began Francisco Trujillo (pictured right) who plays the role of Nino, a few hours before opening the show in Kamloops where it will play before coming to the Firehall Arts Centre in Vancouver.  “I saw the play back in Toronto in the early 2000s and then later the movie.  They are pretty identical.”

But what is different, says Francisco, is the intimacy that the stage brings and the connection for both audience and actors to the material and the story.

“Like most things on stage you are not as detached; you are breathing it,” explained Trujillo.  “With this play all the little gasps, claps and laughter breathe life onto the stage and back out to the audience.  That is what makes live theatre such a great experience as opposed to a movie: you have a relationship with the audience.”

And for Trujillo that relationship with the audience is what is important, even when it gets a little, well, uncomfortable.

“Sometimes I’m a little squeamish about the intimate parts of the play,” giggled Trujillo.  “Joesph [Gallacio], who is straight and actually originated the stage role of Nino, is totally good with it.  He is one of those very comfortable straight guys.  But for me it’s more about public intimacy where people are looking at me more than the fact I’m kissing or doing other things”.

Despite the public intimacy issues, Trujillo says he can relate to much of what is happening between Nino and Angelo.

“Half of Nino’s journey I can relate to,” explained Trujillo.  “The other half of Nino I get from people that I have met and who have lived this dual life with contradiction and self-denial.”

With important issues like self-denial and internalized homophobia explored in Mambo Italiano, Trujillo insists they are treated with respect in this comedy written over a decade ago.

“I think it does treat the issues fairly,” said Trujillo.  “The show is very real.  It’s not a fantasy, not a fairy tale and it’s definitely not dated”.

Despite having been written back in 2000, Trujillo draws parallels to recent news about bullying and the suicides that surrounded some them:  “even though society has been trying to move forward with laws, that doesn’t mean people have moved forward.”

To help illustrate his point, Trujillo talks of a recent encounter on the streets of Vancouver where he overheard a young mother tell her five year old son to “not be so gay”.

“If a little kid of five is told what he is doing is ‘gay’ and that has a negative effect, there is still an issue for that generation.  Gay marriage may be the law in this country but what is happening in our society hasn’t caught up yet.”

Helping them get caught up is part of the attraction in doing Mambo Italiano for Trujillo.

“Besides the fact the show is so well written and its message is clear without hitting you over the head, it makes you think.  These issues are not black and white but give different sides of it.  I feel good about being in a show where an audience will be entertained because it is funny but also because it is relevant.  I know people who still live in Nino’s shoes.”

Mambo Italiano
Firehall Arts Centre
13 – 30 April 2011

Canadian playwright Steve Galluccio’s hugely successful, Mambo Italiano is a refreshing and feel good comedy playing at the Firehall Arts Centre from April 13 – 30, 2011. Everyone can enjoy Mambo Italiano, a tongue in cheek comedy about a conservative Catholic Italian family who is “shocked” that their son is gay. Visit www.firehallartscentre.ca for tickets and information.

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