6766 Main Street
Miami Lakes, FL 33014
Performing at The Alliance Theatre Lab (May 31 - Jun 24)
Runtime: 1 Hour 15 Minutes
Alliance’s ‘Small Membership’ is a big pleasure
Matt, you see, is under-endowed. He has also been, for much of his 26 years, pudgy, shy, socially awkward, angry, not quite certain of his sexual orientation and afraid to take a chance on love, physically or emotionally. How do we know this? Matt bares (almost) all during a group thearapy session that is part confessional, frequently funny and ultimately quite touching.
Now getting its Alliance Theatre Lab world premiere at the Main Street Playhouse in Miami Lakes, the full-length version of Small Membership is a frank look at the insecurities that can dog a guy as he’s coming of age.
For Matt, torment is everywhere and unrelenting. There’s the uncle who dubbed his eight-year-old nephew “Fatty Matty,” and much worse. Mom, who assures Matt that “one day you’ll find a nice girl who’ll see you for who you are on the inside.” Alleged “friends,” who would vie for creative ways to put him down, though mostly they settled for that middle-school staple, “gay.”
Della Ventura is an easygoing actor who, under the direction of his long-time pal David Michael Sirois, commits fully to each potentially embarrassing twist and turn in Matt’s tale. Moving around the tidy classroom set designed by his sister Jodi (who spells her last name “Dellaventura”), the actor relives different traumatizing or emotionally challenging moments in Matt’s past, with an assist from lighting designer Natalie Taveras.
Matt gets down on his knees to ask God for a growth spurt – he’s not begging to be taller, understand – but his prayer, as usual, skips from tangent to tangent. He tries clubbing and drinking one night, and the results leave him vowing never to do that again. He doesn’t really want to hear what a reassuring doctor has to say because, hey, feelings of inadequacy are like breathing to him.
Love comes tantalizingly close for Matt, though like so many things in his life, reality falls short of his dreams. His loss, mourned in beautifully bittersweet song at a karaoke bar, is one more reason to feel for him.
Small Membership is a play full of frank, occasionally X-rated talk about the intimate details of a too-often disappointing life. But because Della Ventura has crafted his script so well, because he is such a warm and likeable presence, Matt’s journey through young manhood makes you wonder how anyone could fail to see what a gem of a guy he is.
What: ‘Small Membership’ by Mark Della Ventura
Where: Alliance Theatre Lab production at Main Street Playhouse, 6766 Main St., Miami Lakes
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through June 24
Cost: $30 (seniors $15), students $10)
Info: 305-259-0418, www.thealliancetheatrelab.com
ALLIANCE’S “SMALL MEMBERSHIP” ALLOWS MARK DELLA VENTURA
TO GIVE US AN UNPRETENTIOUS LOOK AT WHAT MANHOOD MEANS
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
MIAMI LAKES, FL -- Boldly and Brutally Honest! That’s the four word description which so aptly fits Small Membership, a one-man, 75-minute creative work by playwright/actor Mark Della Ventura, produced by Alliance Theatre Lab and staged at Main Street Playhouse here.
What makes Small Membership so appealing is that the audience captures its realism and creativity, while trying to discern which parts are biographical and which are fiction. And, Della Ventura – who wrote a shorter version for his college thesis, which inspired this full-length play --has the perfect setting for this piece – a multi-purpose classroom where group therapy is being held. Actually, the audience is listening in as our hero (Della Ventura), going by the name of Matt, details his childhood and twenty-something insecurities, starting physically below the belt(thus, the title) as well as his relationships and his struggles with puberty, sexual orientation, his first love, heartbreak/rejection and yes, even self-imposed celibacy.
A billboard outside the theatre sets the tone for this unique production: “Are you a man? It asks, “Are you insecure? Join us for group therapy” and “Take back your manhood.” Della Ventura shows us how he answered these questions as he moves around the stage, popping on the appropriate wardrobes and giving us reasonable and candid examples, events and conversation on issues related to his manhood.
No, this is not a stand-up comic recitation on sex. However, there are plenty of moments when laugh-inducement just happens.
No, this is not minutes of drama. However, there are moments of such openness and frankness, it will test your feelings about the sincerity of the man on stage who also authored this tribute to normal maturity and the feelings that go with it. And, when Della Ventura takes to the mike in a flashback at a karaoke club and sings “What Kind of Fool Am I” (from Stop the World, I Want To Get Off”), he makes a valid point of his most sincere and straightforward feelings. As one theater goer noted, “I didn’t want that segment to end.”
It’s a man’s play that women will love!
The taut acting/writing skills exposed in this production is coupled by the vital direction of another playwright/actor David Michael Sirois. Small Membership has what I might term “showmanship pedigree – fine acting and writing by Della Ventura, smooth and professional direction by Sirois and A-One production spurred by Alliance’s founder Adalberto Acevedo.
All three – Della Ventura, Sirois and Alliance were Carbonell nominees for 2011.
Credit must also go the lighting skill of Natalie Tavares, the sound design of Howard Ferre, and the scenic classroom setting skillfully designed by Jodi Dellaventura (yes, one of Mark’s sisters).
Meet Matt, a 26 year old seeking attention and guidance from a group of strangers. The show centers on male insecurity and through a series of flashbacks we see his childhood and adulthood struggles with puberty, sexual orientation, anxiety, true love, heartbreak and self-determined celibacy.
“Small Membership is an original, full-length one person show about a big boy with a small problem," says Della Ventura.
The Alliance Theatre Lab is a Miami-based performing arts institution committed to ensemble collaboration and artistic risk. Winner of the 2011 Miami New Times Award for Best New Work for its production of Brothers Beckett, The Alliance Theatre Lab was founded by Adalberto J. Acevedo in 2005. In 2009, The Alliance began producing full seasons to critical acclaim. Shows include: Strange Snow by Stephen Metcalfe, Sexual Perversity in Chicago by David Mamet, Orphans by Lyle Kessler, Coyote on A Fence by Bruce Graham, The House of Yes by Wendy MacLeod, Fool For Love by Sam Shepard, ‘night, Mother by Marsha Norman, Lobby Hero by Kenneth Lonergan and Off Center of Nowhere by David Michael Sirois. In 2011, The Alliance produced its first world premiere, Brothers Beckett by Resident Playwright David Michael Sirois, to high acclaim. Together, Artistic Director Adalberto Acevedo and The Alliance Ensemble has refocused the company as a group of theatre artists that focus on contemporary works that provoke, challenge and engage our audience.