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‘Apple Pie’ Explores Melding of Cultures

In its finest moments, “Spaghetti and Apple Pie” at the Court Theatre transcends amusing if predictable satire to strike a nerve at the core of the American immigrant experience.

Samuel C. Adamo’s play centers on a 1930s Sicilian family reluctantly coming to terms with a New York City culture that challenges their Old Country ways. Think of a non-musical “Fiddler on the Roof” with marinara sauce.

The family patriarch (Robert Gallo) is reduced to outbursts of neck-bulging exasperation at his daughter’s romantic involvement with an Americano (and a Protestant to boot!), while Mama (Sherry Adamo) keeps casting her eyes heavenward in exaggerated Catholic atonement for the family’s collective lapses.

Returning from the popular 1992 Group Repertory Theatre production under new director Jules Aaron, both performers find the human hearts beneath their stereotyped roles, as do the particularly focused Lisa Elaina and Cosimo Canale from the double-cast supporting ensemble.

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Amid plentiful mirth and sometimes strained silliness, playwright Adamo (who also appears as the family’s unlikely catalyst for change) confronts darker facets of his Sicilian legacy, like sanctioned spousal abuse and marrying off teen-aged daughters to men three times their elders.

The play’s culture clash is viewed from an optimistic “first-generation” perspective in which antiquated customs crumble before the unquestioned superiority of newfound American freedoms. Never addressed is the rootlessness of relativism--the price tag for sacrificing the stability and continuity of values that come with a heritage, for all its tyrannies.

* “Spaghetti and Apple Pie,” Court Theatre, 722 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 and 7 p.m. Ends March 5. $20. (213) 466-1767. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.


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