Giuseppe Mortelliti in 84 Gradini at Fringe Festival
  • Giuseppe Mortelliti in 84 Gradini at Fringe Festival
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SD Fringe Festival: 84 Gradini

Giuseppe Mortelliti in 84 Gradini at Fringe Festival

84 Gradini. Kinetic Giuseppi Mortelliti tells his story as much with his body as his words. His character, Fabrizio, learns that “life is made of stairs, of obstacles, of ups and downs.” But he has “climbed up his stairs without taking a single moment of breath.”

Fabrizio makes his “anti-epic” journey on a bare stage, save for various colored boxes: some in a stack, others strewn here and there. They resemble the course for a steeplechase, as he moves step by step (“step #39”; “step #73”) through a life slammed by sudden tragedies.

As the losses accumulate he becomes more frantic, in his movements and in finding answers beyond the bromide that hey, life goes on.

What persists is his naivete. 84 steps later he appears almost free of illusions — and, sadly, of hope.

Mortelliti hails from Italy (where 84 Gradini won the Special Off-Roma Fringe Festival Award for 2014). His English can be hard to follow, in part because he speaks it so quickly. But he communicates with his entire being. He moves with a stark grace — like the fractured parody of a gymnast, and as precise. His facial expressions and body language are eloquent.

As when he looks at young Francesca and sees the mother of his child-to be “with such clarity.” Or when the doctor gives him a fatal diagnosis.

Throughout, Mortelliti has an amazing, near-nervous-breakdown intensity. He also has interludes where he hops off the script and becomes impish, childlike, and funny.

Jay & Charlie Get Drunk. Bodie met Charlie at a Starbucks and dumped her. They’d been together four and a half months and ker-whup! No warning. Now he’s on the Internet advertising his availability.

What do to? Charlie and friend Jay concoct schemes (asked why both women have men’s names, one replies, “because they’re our NAMES”). Then Steve joins in. Along with liking to extol the virtues of his “war hammer,” he’s their dope dealer. Jay says he looks “like the word ‘moist’ in human form.”

So murder Bodie? Slit his throat? Nope: toilet paper his house so severely his grandchildren will still be finding two-ply imbeds 40 years from now.

But that’s after they get stoned, of course, and go on a serious munchie-run disguised as a quest for TP.

Radmoose Media hails from Calgary, Canada. Jay & Charlie is their first show. It’s got humor and absurdity throughout (“Why are you writing on my wall,” asks Jay, “I LIVE HERE!”). It also has a smart subtext about teenage life today.

But the script is funnier than the show, which was marred by Fringe-jitters, at first, and a tendency to mumble and throw away laugh-lines. Clean these things up and it could be a keeper.

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