The Light in the Piazza

In their temporary digs in Crystal City, Arena delivers an effective, if modest, production of Guettel’s small-scale musical of an American mother and daughter on tour in post-war Italy, an abbreviated family unit in which daughter Clara may be less than she seems. The simple set is lit well by Michael Gilliam: moving instruments allow us to move adagio with Clara and her mother Margaret through the streets of Florence,—although elsewhere in the show, the projections of famous Florentine paintings against the set are sometimes a distraction.

Clara falls in (as American girls will do) with a charming, handsome Italian, one Fabrizio, who has an endearing partial command of English as well as the first act “Il Mondo Era Vuoto,” sung by Nicholas Rodriguez with muscular brio. Indeed, some of the best music in the show is sung in Italian, especially the spiky second act opening quintet, “Aiutami.”

But the story, and the evening, belong to Hollis Resnik’s Margaret, who brings a mature clarity to “Dividing Day.” In the second act, when she cuts short a long-distance phone call to her husband Roy, she gives a little yelp, as if startled by her own determination to carry out her plans.

  • The Light in the Piazza, book by by Craig Lucas, music and lyrics by Adam Guettel, directed by Molly Smith, Arena Stage, Arlington, Virginia