Rosaria: “Then I’ll take him by his hand and we’ll jump straight down into the blue sea. He will think it’s a game.”
Three characters. Sicily, 1980s. The uncredited lighting for this one-act tragedy from Italy tells much of the story. Darkness surrounds Rosaria, her cousin Giovanni, and the dancing master Giuseppe. With few exceptions, they stand alone, out of touch, softly spotlit. In the end the last light fades. Their stark isolation is complete.
Young Giovanni can’t dance a lick, but since he’s convinced music flows through his veins he wants to become a great dancer. Rosaria notices early on that he acts like a “sissy.” So she puts him to the test: she bares her breasts; his passive response confirms her suspicion.
Rosaria vows to protect her cousin for life. She deepens her resolve when neighborhood males begin calling him “Little John” and homophobic epithets.
Giuseppe, the dancing master, has always had his way. Though married, and though he denies an attraction to males, he is a “smart seducer” no matter the gender.
All three have known unthinkable cruelty. Rosaria and Giovanni have been assaulted. So has Giuseppe, though he reacted in turn and murdered a boy who knew his “secret.”
Giuseppe becomes Giovanni’s first, and only, lover. Up to this point, Giovanni has done “nothing with nobody.” The seduction proves fatal.
Vucciria Teatro performs in Italian. English subtitles flash on a white sheet hanging from a clothesline. At first, it’s tempting to wonder why not English. It doesn’t take long, however, to feel the aptness of the choice. Joele Anastasi (Giovanni), Enrico Sortino (Giuseppe), and Federica Carruba Toscano (Rosaria) rapid-fire their lines like music — here pizzicato trills, there bold, sforzando stresses — always with spontaneous outbursts.
Their passion would get lost in the translation.
Putting Nothing With Nobody on the stage of the Spreckels Theatre’s a blessing. The actors face the house seats. Their voices rocket through the space’s excellent acoustics, giving depth to their cries of pain.
The subtitles help tell the story, as does a synopsis in the program. Add to that each performer’s physicality. Anastasi, who wrote and directed Nothing, gives Giovanni a manic innocence, as if trying, but unable, to free himself from a cage.
Sortino and Carruba Toscano also ground their work in eloquent, unfettered movements — all in sync with their vocalizations.
Rosaria: “I’ll tell him that we have to race in the water to see who is the faster of the two. Or I will tell him to swim together hand in hand. I live only for him in this world. He is my whole life!”