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Paradise by the River

Drama in three acts by Vittorio Rossi, premiered at Centaur Theatre, directed by Joel Miller, presented by Ciro Cucciniello & Frank Calandriello, Di Ioia & Associates, Avicor Construction Inc. and Belmonte Léger et Associés in cooperation with the HB Arts Foundation and Rossi Production. It featured Mark Camacho, Penny Mancuso, Tony Nappo, Nathalie Breuer, Louis Tucci, Harry Standjofski, Ted Whittall, Henry Gauthier, Carlo Berardinucci and John Aprea. Produced by Bruce Johnson and the author. Set and costumes by Guido Tondino, lighting by Freddie Grimwood. Technical director/production manager: Steve Schön.

The catalyst for the play is this country's Defence of Canada Regulations during WWII, a law which permitted the incarceration of Italian-Canadians. But Rossi goes further than mere polemic and presents a fascinating portrait of the Italian community in crisis. He is not generous to the array of stool-pigeons, hustlers, frauds and carpetbaggers who existed inside and outside the Italian neighbourhoods of this country, but the author does show a profound humanity as he describes the experiences of a particular group of people caught up in chaos and red-tape. The work is old-fashioned in the best sense of the phrase and it is no surprise that Rossi dedicated the work to his father, "the master storyteller."

A stone mason is sent off to an internment camp while his family tries to survive without him. His wife is forced to deal with all the difficulties of life alone while he adjusts to survival behind barbed wire. Both, however, have squealers near them who are making their lives more miserable.

Reviews were unanimously favourable with Gaëtan Charlebois, writing for Hour, stating, "Caring is what this play, this production and this history are about. You're not going to find a more interesting or lucid work told more cogently in a long time..."

Readings: Vittorio Rossi. Paradise by the River. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1998.

Commentary by Gaetan Charlebois

Last updated 2021-07-20