Napoli, Brooklyn/Malvern Theatres

THE rites of passage are difficult enough to navigate for any young person but for second generation immigrants the task must be even harder.

Meghan Kennedy’s tale of three sisters trying to cope with the pace of change in the Italian quarter of New York during the early 1960s and the ensuing inevitable clash of cultural values is a master class in social observation.

Patriarch Nic (Robert Cavanah) rules his roost with classic Old World despotism, enforcing traditional male supremacy at all times.

The power behind his crown is the ever-present, all-consuming Catholic Church, which permeates every nook and cranny of the family’s daily existence.

The trouble is that the odds are very much stacked against him – and the church - because the times they are a’changing.

That’s because daughter Francesca (Hannah Bristow) is a lesbian and Vita (Georgia May Foote) never squanders an opportunity to rubbish a father who increasingly starts to lose control… which is, of course, the very worst thing that could happen to him.

This just leaves Tina (Mona Goodwin) acting as peacemaker between the warring factions, aided by the wise Celia (Gloria Onitiri).

Meanwhile, Nic’s wife Luda (Madeleine Worrall) seeks solace in the arms of Albert (Stephen Hogan). Yes, it’s a car crash of a situation with several tons of spoiled spaghetti spilling across the freeway.

There are some fine performances all round, particularly in the case of the wonderfully waspish Vita who oozes so much vitriol that the stage is in mortal peril of dissolving.

And neatly underscoring the parent-adolescent chasm opening up is the brief dance sequence between Francesca and Connie (Laura Ogden) set to the rock ‘n’ roll of Gene Vincent’s Be-bop-a-lula triumphantly usurping the more staid warblings of Mario Lanza.

Napoli, Brooklyn is another fine production by the Original Theatre Company and runs until Saturday (May 4).

John Phillpott