"Tom Reing, one of Philly’s best directors, delivers an energized, high-style production, and the actors (Katie Stahl and Liam Mulshine) are appealing."
"Thus begins a fast-paced shaggy dog tale of love and revenge, told mostly in dueling monologs of Irish brogue, intersecting in fights, chases, and romantic meetings between the pair. Stahl and Mulshine engage throughout, mimicking the accent and embodying the tough exteriors and sensitive interiors of their young characters. The story is far-fetched, full of Shakespearean coincidences, forced tragedy, sex, and violence. But we care about the nicknamed couple, and we feel firmly entrenched in the narrative, even as it’s mostly told not shown."
"Coming-of-age stories often do adolescence a disservice. Many narratives talk down to characters and minimize their problems, but “Leper + Chip” offers bountiful respect to the teens it portrays. “These characters are wounded individuals, stuck in bad situations,” artistic director Tom Reing said in an interview. “They are impulsive and it gets them into trouble but that impulse also leads to love.” “Leper + Chip” does this sort of story justice.
Liam Mulshine, who plays Leper, talks about the challenge of playing the role, “Leper is this brash, wild inner city Dublin kid who tells it like it is and wants to make sure everyone around him knows he's the man, the one in charge.”
Mulshine goes on to comment about how portraying Leper stirred up memories of his own adolescence: “The show feels viscerally real to me and I try to imbue my performance with all of the excitement and angst and intensity I remember feeling when I was Leper's age.”
“Leper + Chip” is the kind of art that demands to be noticed. The angst that permeates the teenage years never goes away. The residual effects find their way into our personalities as adults, which makes “Leper + Chip” excruciatingly relevant. We’re just a bunch of grown up kids desperately seeking for acknowledgment and making mistakes along the way."
"The language here is a mixture of dramatic dialogue and narration, so that much of the show seems to be a short story read aloud and theatrically illustrated. With the audience seated in a four-square arrangement framing the stage (not always a serviceable idea) the action—much of it physical—is choreographed impressively and performed relentlessly by actors who are agile in every way. Alternating between acting out the scene and explaining it, Mulshine and Stahl never falter, and neither do their excellent accents."
"The tale is richly complicated and brutally bloody, but also hilarious and sincere enough that we can't help but hope for a happy ending. Stahl and Mulshine make convincing drifting young adults who drink, fuck, and live by crude street ethics, yet must answer to Mum or Da if they stay out late. Their Dublin accents are appropriately thick and coarse but always understandable (dialect coach Leonard Kelly deserves praise), and Inis Nua supplies a brief glossary for the few slang terms still unclear in context.
Their performances are all the more impressive given that director Tom Reing stages Leper + Chip with the audience on four sides of the small cement square of street created by scenic designer Meghan Jones. Neither actor leaves the stage, though each gets a break when the other takes over. Shon Causer's lighting illustrates the punches, kicks, slaps, stabs, and gunshots and sculpts the play as it moves through many locations and the two characters' points of view."
DC Metro Theater Arts:
"Liam Mulshine as Leper and Katie Stahl as Chip are nothing short of remarkable in their flawless execution of the hefty script, thoroughly believable portrayal of the gritty pair, imitations of the other troubled characters in their story (his send-up of a 50-something pick-up for a one-night stand is especially caustic), and thick Irish accents (with dialect coaching by Leonard Kelly). We see the anger and despair in their crass bravado, then the softening towards each other and themselves, as they shed their mean-spirited nicknames, reveal their true identities, and turn their hostility into understanding, tenderness, and love, all within the frenetic 36 hours since they met. These are two emerging talents to watch."
"Tom Reing, Inis Nua's artistic director and founder, keeps things nimble and perilous. The duo, cynical, rough and gutter-mouthed, are also likeable and you root for them to get together and come out of this ok. The actors who play Leper and Chip also play their fathers, friends, betrayers, murderers, hook-ups, and anyone else. With a combination of acting it out and conjuring through narration the play rounds things out, alternating between the two actors, memory, and current dangers.
... While everyone around them continues to brawl, and both are separately involved in brutal scenes, Leper and Chip fight on, have sex, fall in love, and begin to share recitations. Liam Mulshine and Katie Stahl emerge as capable and confident lead actors in a cheeky play where love kindles amid danger, violence and murder."
"[I]f you’re looking for contenders for the best comedy Fringe has to offer, I think we may have just got beaten on our home turf by a gang of out-of-towners.
Tut’Zanni Theatre Company’s Capital Fringe debut delights the audience with energetic comedy, accessible characters, and skilled performers. It helps that Tut’Zanni is comprised of graduates from Accademia dell'Arte in Tuscany, which is itself rooted in centuries of comedy.
For the uninitiated, commedia dell’arte is a unique mix of improvisation, physical comedy, and classical tropes. This style began as street theatre in 16th century Italy, and its heritage shines in Love Letter Lost.
The show runs cleaner than any improvisational Fringe show has the right to run. The performances are ever-evolving, and freshly concocted lines can make even cast members watching from the on-stage wings double over with genuine laughter. When the cast turns to the audience for suggestions, these additions blend smoothly into the flow of the show. I had the opportunity to see the script, which was more of a set list than anything else, and yet the show always looked polished to a shine.
Not simply painting by numbers, Tut’Zanni makes the form their own, as demonstrated by Allegra Libonati and Molly Tomhave, playing Magnifica and Dottore respectively. The two pompous matriarchs have been fighting since an incident in Dottore’s dorm room, which is peculiar both for the modern backstory and the gender of these traditionally male characters. But, as with every other choice in this production, the changes are smart and serve the spirit of the law well.
From the moment the house opens and the cast begins chatting one-on-one with audience members, Tut’Zanni makes the Gearbox feel like their home, and they make their guests welcome. Laughs and applause come easy. After all, they’re well deserved.
See it if: You don’t want to miss a fantastic theatre company while they’re briefly in town."
(Best of the Capital Fringe)
"Love Letter Lost, presented by Tut’Zanni Theatre Company, is everything a Fringe show should be: fast paced, highly entertaining, and a wonderfully comic way to spend an evening.
The acting troupe (Ali Landvatter, Allegra Libonati, Dory Sibley, Liam Mulshine, Molly Tomhave, and Patrick Berger) consists of six expert scene-stealers. Each of these actors is incredibly gifted with comic timing and the stakes are high in every scene as the actors vie for audience sympathy and support.
The plot of Love Letter Lost, such as it is, is highly improvisational, as befits Commedia dell’Arte. It concerns feuding families, star crossed lovers, a misdirected letter, put-upon servants, and a sea captain with a gambling problem. Audience participation is not only expected, but required, and has direct impact on the improvisational direction the actors take with the plot.
Tut’Zanni makes the most of a tiny Fringe stage, creating magic with masks, colored silks, and a few representational costume pieces. They are so good that you completely buy into the make-believe world they are creating onstage.
Love Letter Lost is a not to be missed Fringe experience."
Why Theater? From the point of theatre-making, I love the way putting on a show creates this community of people all working together towards one goal, towards building something far bigger than any one person. Contributing towards the birth of a play is a high like no other. Between the inception of the idea and the first night an audience actually sees it, there's almost always the inevitable moment where the question "can we actually do this?" comes up. I love overcoming that challenge. "
What is it like being a part of Art for Sale?: SO MUCH FUN. One of the co-founders of our company, Ali Landvatter, wrote the basic outline for the show, but nearly everything came from improvising together. That's how Commedia works best - you know the needs and basic personalities of the characters, and you decide, "This is the scene where this happens" and you play. We rehearsed last month for about two weeks before performing at a theatre festival in Italy, and I don't think I've ever laughed so hard so many days in a row. It's incredibly challenging too though. We've struggled a lot - not only in figuring out how to best tell the story, but in working with our masks. They're beautiful, dynamic tools that demand a precise, fluid, infinitely energetic physicality to match. In the best moments of performing, I feel like the mask gives me the ability to be bigger and bolder than I'd ever be without it.
Accademia dell'Arte Alumni Spotlight
What was your favorite thing about the program?
Don’t make me choose! I think if I had to distill down my favorite thing about the program, it was the freedom to experiment. More specifically, I learned how to be ugly. That sounds odd but just hear me out – coming from my very rigorous BFA program at BU, I was myopically focused on being a “good” and “impressive” actor. The Accademia felt like a laboratory for theatre nestled in the Tuscan hills where I left my “good” actor pretenses at the door and experimented to find how far and wide I could stretch by voice, my body, and the characters I created. My teachers and classmates really fostered this amazing ethos of getting down and dirty to see what we could learn about ourselves and about performance.
Tell us more about how you started with Tut’Zanni? How has your role changed/evolved over the years?
ALi, Tut’Zanni’s co-founder, asked me to coffee when we were both living in LA and told me “I’m creating a Commedia theatre company, I want you to be in it, and I want to fly us all out to perform in Arezzo this summer.” The idea sounded amazing and probably unlikely to pan out, but I love ALi’s passion and didn’t have much to lose by aiming big with her. Cut to five years later, we’ve traveled all over together, taught workshops and performed several shows in multiple festivals. It’s pretty unreal. We’ve pretty consistently shared the responsibilities of show creation throughout the years – everyone bringing ideas, everyone getting up to play around in mask and directing and helping to sculpt the final product. I’ve enjoyed helping out on the PR and “brand” front – including some of our website design, photography, video editing, posters, and more.
What is your favorite Tut’Zanni show? Why?
Something just clicked with Love Letter Lost, our second show. It had the classic Commedia dynamics of master and servants, feuding families, unrequited love, and a big crazy ending. But it wasn’t pulled straight from a book of old lazzi – we took a couple inspirational ideas and kept building, knocking down, and building again, basically from scratch. In the end we stepped back and realized we had birthed this show that we loved and audiences seemed to get a kick out of too. Each character, each actor has a moment to really ham it up. It hearkens back to the traditional form but feels completely our own.