FLIM FLAM PHANTOM SHAM (Ombelico Mask Ensemble): Fringe Review 56

John Bellomo and Renato Arcuri perform in Ombelico’s FLIM FLAM PHANTOM SHAM (Photo credit: Courtesy of Ombelico Mask Ensemble)

John Bellomo and Renato Arcuri perform in Ombelico’s FLIM FLAM PHANTOM SHAM (Photo credit: Courtesy of Ombelico Mask Ensemble)

Ombelico’s latest al fresco offering, FLIM FLAM PHANTOM SHAM, is a delightful synthesis of traditional Commedia dell’Arte with current Philadelphia references, delivered in Italian and English—or Philly’s local version thereof!—which kept me in stitches throughout the entire all-ages show. The eminently likeable cast, who clearly enjoyed themselves as much as the audience did, got into the spirit of the original madcap rom-com (created by the ensemble and based on a scenario by Flaminio Scala) and the physical spectacle of Italian Commedia, rapidly changing masks, costumes, and accents for their dual roles, singing and drumming, engaging in slapstick fights and audience interaction, delivering running jokes and sight gags, and ad-libbing with joyful abandon.

John Bellomo (performing as the stock characters Capitan and Dottore) delivers hilarious malapropisms and a side-splitting adaptation of Abbott and Costello’s famous “who’s on first?” routine. Kevin Bergen masters the postures and toe-points and nails the Philadelphia and Russian dialects of his reinvented Pantalone and Nikolai, and Aetna Gallagher (Isabella/Nespola) and Leah Walton (Flaminia/Franceschina) quickly transition from love-struck girls to low-class servants with spot-on comedic timing. Rounding out the ensemble are Brendon Gawel as the easily confused Oratio and Brighella, and the graceful and dashing Renato Arcuri as Arlecchino and Flavio, who mostly speaks in his native Italian, but makes an amusing comment about taking a “selfie” in English. The performances are free, but in the old Commedia (and true Fringe) tradition, the actors take the colorful donation buckets into the audience, so you can show your appreciation personally. [Liberty Lands Park, 926 N. American St.] September 12-21, 2014; http://fringearts.com/event/flim-flam-phantom-sham-12/.

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About the author

Debra Miller

Debra holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware and teaches at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ. She is a judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice, and has served as a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and President of the Board of Directors of Da Vinci Art Alliance. Her publications include articles, books, and catalogues on Renaissance, Baroque, American, Pre-Columbian, and Contemporary Art, and feature articles on the Philadelphia theater scene.