The Decameron by 14th century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio is a collection of novellas containing 100 tales told by a group of seven young women and three young men hoping to escape the Black Death by isolating themselves in a secluded villa outside Florence. So what could be more fitting than to see three of these stories brought to life by a young and energetic group of actors, members of YoungKIT, part of Kairos Italy Theater. And the setting was perfect: the Italian Embassy’s comfortable and intimate auditorium where an enthusiastic audience appreciated that they were seeing something very special. (Photo above: YoungKIT actors in front of the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C.)
Antonio Bartoli, head of the embassy’s cultural office, noted that Boccaccio “just turned 700,” but that his stories are “incredibly fresh and modern.” The Decameron is credited with influencing other literary works, including Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Mandrake. Bartoli praised Kairos’ Artistic Director Laura Caparrotti, who founded the New York-based theater company in 2000, for her creativity and leadership, and for her modern interpretation of the Decameron.
“Boccaccio and Machiavelli stay in the academic world and are not performed very often,” Laura said. “With actors in their twenties, these three stories from the Decameron become modern.”
YoungKIT’s seven actors attacked the material with relish, each member taking on several roles, using different mannerisms and facial expressions, as well as minimal costume changes – mostly scarves and hats snatched up from baskets at the front of the stage – to signal a character change. The presentation also included much physical action, the actors jumping on and off the stage and often on each other, at one point with several creating a beast that could carry one member of the troupe. Anyone who thought that an ancient play would be dull was quickly disabused of that notion.
Laura is to be commended for selecting the three plays that, although differing in plot, had enough commonality that they seemed to flow together yet remain separate and distinct. The first play presented was from “Day the Third, The Sixth Story,” a case of mistaken identity that results in an assignation pleasing the participants. (Photo above: Carlotta Brentan and Jacopo Rampini.)
Second was “Day the Seventh, The Seventh Story,” where Beatrice goes to extremes to trick her husband, Egano, so she can spend time with her lover, Lodovico. Third, “Day the Eighth, The Ninth Story,” has two ruffians playing tricks on a physician, who is so eager to join the men’s fictitious “company” that he will do anything and eventually winds up in a ditch filled with excrement.
The seven YoungKIT’s – Ilaria Ambrogi, Francisco Andolfi, Giulia Bisinella, Carlotta Brentan, Francesco Meola, Jacopo Rampini, and Irene Turri – displayed versatility and an affinity for the material. Those not familiar with the Decameron certainly could not have wished for a better introduction.