Review: "I Am So Much Better Live" Invites You to Take It at Its Word

I Am So Much Better Live (Dal vivo sono molto meglio)

Written by Paola Minaccioni, Alberto Caviglia, Claudio Fois, and Daniele Prato in collaboration with Andrea Lolli

Directed by Paola Rota

Presented by by Teatro Stabile d’Abruzzo in collaboration with Stefano Francioni Produzioni

May 5, 2023 at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò at NYU, 24 W 12th St, Manhattan, NYC

May 9, 2023 at Hudson Theatres, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA

Paola Minaccioni. Photo by Francesca Lucidi

Theater, film, television, and radio performer Paola Minaccioni has built a storied, decades-long career in her native Italy. With her solo show I Am So Much Better Live (Dal vivo sono molto meglio), Minaccioni brings a blend of stand-up and sketch-style character work, punctuated with musical contributions from DJ Lady Coco, to the United States. I Am So Much Better Live, performed in Italian with English supertitles, is presented this month as part of the 2023 In Scena! Italian Theater Festival, taking place throughout NYC's five boroughs from May 1st through 16th, with free admission to all events.

The title of the show of course has a self-reflexive aspect, but within the show, the phrase is self-deprecatingly attributed to a comically starstruck neighbor who assures Minaccioni that she is much less ugly in person. This neighbor is one of a range of personalities whom we meet either in the course of anecdotes from Minaccioni's onstage persona or, as in the case of an exaggeratedly overbearing mother who considers her daughters-in-law to have kidnapped her sons, as fully inhabited characters (who also highlight Minaccioni's gift for physical comedy). Another such character is Katinka, a feisty Romanian customer service rep who not only is very funny as a character but also allows Minaccioni to make some satirical points concerning the treatment of immigrant workers in Italy. Other subjects that fall within the show's capacious ambit include theater audiences, meditation apps, break ups, and male foibles - communicated in one segment via a comical trio of love poems. Minaccioni can also be an agile improviser, as most clearly demonstrated in an extended segment in which she takes on the character of an unfiltered 80 year-old woman for some crowd work (mostly un-supertitled, for obvious reasons).

The show ends on a dance party vibe, soundtracked by Lady Coco, by that point divested of her gold-embellished jacket and sunglasses; and that atmosphere encapsulated the feeling of the show as a whole. With no more than an unadorned stage, a DJ stand, and some game audience members, I Am So Much Better Live cultivates a joyful evening of comedy.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards

More from our 2023 In Scena! coverage:

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