January 20, 2018 – This documentary film is about what seems to be a unique artistic performance event held annually in the small town of Monticchiello in the Val d'Orcia region of Tuscany in central Italy. The film's title means, essentially, a play. But this is not just any play, it is an “autodrama” a play written and performed by the people of the town about themselves, their hopes, their history, their concerns about the changes happening in their country and in their town.
This annual play, called Monticchiello's Teatro Povero (“Poor Theatre”) has been held annually since the 1960s in the town's piazza, or central public square. Over time, it has evolved into its current form in which the all the people of the town are invited to decide the subject and form of the play and to participate in its production.
One of the early plays shown in the film has to do with how the town was saved from destruction by the German Army. A woman who, in 1944, persuaded a German commander to spare the town and the people in it. This play was very dramatic and suspenseful. In other towns, this play might simply have been performed every year as a tourist attraction, but Monticchiello's Teatro Povero features a new play every year.
This documentary film follows the production of a play about the “End of the World” through its development from beginning to end over the course of several months. Film is divided into four seasons, with the play being performed in the summer of 2016. The play's prime mover is Andrea Cresti, described as the one indispensable person in producing the play. He writes the script and directs the play, works on the sets and runs the rehearsals.
In the film, it appears as though interest in the producing the Teatro Povero is declining. One young man says he will be in the play, then changes his mind. Others drop in and out of the rehearsals. Both Cresti and some of the actors get frustrated with each other. Most of the actors are middle-aged and beyond. One actor dies months before the play is shown.
The play is about the end of life as it has been known in Monticchiello. The economic problems of Italy are also a big part of the play, which has a scene where the cultural heritage of Italy is being auctioned off to the highest bidder. The film also shows an abandoned, half-finished development near the town, which was the subject of heated disagreements in Monticchiello.
Located in the middle of what once was farming country, Monticchiello has undergone many changes in recent years, and these changes have been reflected in the summer plays. In essence, the plays are a way for the people of Monticchiello to address the changing cultural and economic forces that are shaping their town.
While it may appear that the long tradition of Teatro Povero may be at an end in this film, there was another play a year later, in 2017, so the tradition continues. Theater workshops are held in Monticchiello to teach people how to put on their own plays like the Teatro Povero. This film, directed by Jeff Malmberg (“Marwencol”) and Chris Shellen, was produced in cooperation with the people of Monticchiello, and it provides an effective inside look at this unique tradition. This film rates a B.
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