Rom-Com Romp Delirium’s Daughters Delights at Theatre Row

Rom-Com Romp Delirium’s Daughters Delights at Theatre Row

Four marriage proposals among the three daughters of one eccentric widower lead to countless moments of laughter in the return of Nicholas Korn’s Delirium’s Daughters. This play, that made its world premiere in February 2015, successfully uses speedy dialogue and a sparse set (just two benches and the façade of a home) to create an entire world of colorful characters in the town of Aviano, Italy.

Delirium’s Daughters borrows from Commedia dell’Arte, the theatrical style that places its company of actors into a scenario where characters represent archetypes and rely on props and overall performance to enhance a plot that seems simple on the surface. In this play, the three Di Lirio sisters all want their father’s blessings to get married. Chaos ensues when the youngest sister has two suitors and further escalates when the head of the Di Lirio household insists on discussing matters with his wife… who has been dead for three years. What once was a need for a father to say “yes” or “no” to his daughters’ intendeds spirals into a series of events that include sons cross-dressing to impersonate their mothers, an impromptu opera aria, and a ghostly visit from someone who is still very much alive.

The ridiculousness of the misunderstandings and schemes, coupled with the tongue-twisting dialogue, reminded me of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies. But it is the focus on the worth and need of a balanced relationship between partners that makes Delirium’s Daughters socially relevant to the present. I was eagerly engaged with what the characters were saying and how the story unfolded, keen on the plot that the women’s opinions were necessary. Love had to win, dammit, and I wasn’t about to leave that theater until those daughters got engaged on their own terms to the men who rightfully earned their affection.

This show features one heck of an ensemble. As each character is defined by a certain mood or trait, it would have been so easy for performances to appear flat or one-note. Instead, this wonderful cast showcases a range of emotions that color otherwise generic labels. As I am a middle sister, it feels only right to use that character, Marina (Stephanie Nicole Kelley) as an example. Marina would likely be called “the bitchy one.” She’s strongly opinionated and appears to be on the verge of Hulking out if the situation calls for it. But she’s also extremely caring with regard to her father and sisters, quick to defend those she loves, and encouraging of her less vocal counterpart, Timidio (Brandon Beilis). In my opinion, this is a very accurate depiction of a middle sister, as is the bossy nature of the eldest sister, Terresa (Deanna Gibson), and the fun-seeking demeanor of the youngest sister, Celia (Kerry Frances). For the record, I have an older sister and a younger brother; both who I love very much. However, the sibling personalities in the play are still scary on point.

The male characters are all named after their most obvious character trait and conduct themselves as such. Timidio is “the timid one,” Serio (Evan Zimmerman) is “the serious one,” Pomposa (Jackson Thompson) is “the pompous one,” Giovio (Nick Bombicino) is “the jovial one,” and Papa Di Lirio (Branislav Tomich) is “the delirious one.” While these stereotypes are based in truth with regard to the characters’ actions and dialogue, each of these gentlemen have an arc that allows them to adapt to the story as it races toward the final scene. No man ends the play exactly how he starts, and we all benefit from their growth.

Delirium’s Daughters is definitely funny, but holy cow, did it also tug some heartstrings. To be fair, comedies aren’t actually supposed to make you laugh the whole way through. In classical literature and drama, comedies were stories where the main character (or characters) triumphed over adversity. The dramatic moments in this play, while few, are completely earned and showcase how heartfelt Korn’s script is. All may be fair in love and war, but both leave casualties.

Delirium’s Daughters is playing a limited engagement through September 20 at The Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row on W 42nd St. You have my blessing; go see this play.

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