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Review of Mary Melfi’s FOREPLAY and MY ITALIAN WIFE by Agata De Santis on

Check out the following review of Mary Melfi’s upcoming release Foreplay and My Italian Wife from Agata De Santis on

“Mary Melfi Explores Sex and Love In New Plays.”

by Agata De Santis

Earlier this month Montreal writer Mary Melfi’s two plays, Foreplay and My Italian Wife, were published by Guernica Editions. It seems odd to have a play, never mind two, published rather than staged. And Melfi is well aware of the oddity.

“When I was a young woman I preferred reading plays to novels. I couldn’t afford to go to the theater back then but I certainly enjoyed borrowing plays from my local library. When I was at university, my English professor, Dr. Peter Davies, encouraged my love of theater and even produced a short play I wrote. That cemented my commitment to drama. I actually expected to be a playwright back then, I never dreamed I would be a poet or novelist, but ‘reality’ set in,” Melfi explains.

Melfi would go on to write numerous poems and novels, including her latest novel, Italy Revisited: Conversations with My Mother, published by Guernica Editions in 2009.

“Lucky for me, the former publisher of Guernica Editions, Antonio D’Alfonso, supported my literary endeavors and agreed to publish the plays I wrote. It’s unusual for a playwright, even a well-established one, to have her plays published, so I feel quite blessed,” Melfi continues.

Both Foreplay and My Italian Wife examine the complex dynamics in any relationship – love, trust, and sex. Foreplay centers around the relationship of an emotionally insecure couple that take a much-needed vacation on a New Age refuse island in order to improve their sex lives. The more light-hearted tongue-in-cheek My Italian Wife looks at the mind-set and preoccupations of second-generation Italian immigrants.

“In an ideal world couples would be warm and generous, self-sacrificing even, ever forgiving of each other’s faults and so on, but in the real world, couples are often naysayers. They enjoy putting each other down and get off on controlling, or trying to, control each other. Sometimes money is used as leverage to gain control, and sometimes brain power. The problem with modern-day relationships is that either one of the partners can break it off with impunity. There is no social pressure to tie the knot ‘till death do you part.’ Happily-ever-afters can come in installments, five years, ten years, whatever works. And so couples are forever insecure, forever afraid their happily-ever-after will get short-changed. In part this is what Foreplay is all about. The couple knows that even though they are legally married and supposedly love each other to death, there is no guarantee that they will stay together,” Melfi explains.

“The themes that are present in Foreplay are revisited in My Italian Wife except with one exception – the couple in this play is much older than the other one, and so the problems facing them are somewhat less dramatic, but more complicated. If that sounds like a bit of a paradox, I suppose it is,” Melfi muses.

“My Italian Wife contrasts the different challenges that confront older first-generation Italian-Canadians with those that confront the younger second-generation. The play attempts to define the dreams and aspirations of the over-fifty crowd and those of the under-thirty crowd and by so doing reveals that both groups essentially want the same things. Both groups want security, and a sense of belonging – to a family and to a country,” she continues.

“Do I know the ending to a story before I write it? Absolutely not. The second draft of a book doesn’t look like anything like the first draft. I am forever making changes,” Melfi admits.

“However, as I don’t like the books or films that are too dark or whine too much about the human condition, I make an effort not to whine too much in my books as well. Some might argue that a lot of the poetry I wrote as a young woman can be described as bleak and macabre, still, even in my darkest texts I believe I provide some comic relief. Unless I am mistaken, Italians seem to be blessed with a sense of humor. Their view of the world is bittersweet. Hopefully, this bittersweet Italian quality is manifest in my works. In any case I aim for it. And because I do, I might not know the ending of a book or a play when I start writing it, but I do know whatever ending I chose should incorporate joy and sorrow, agony and ecstasy – all those polar opposites.”

Foreplay, followed by My Italian Wife will be officially launched on Sunday, November 18, from 3:00PM to 5:00PM, at the Atwater Library, located at 1200 Atwater Avenue in Montreal. The launch will be part of Guernica Editions’ second Fall 2012 launch, and will also include the launch of books by David Solway (Habibi), Michael Carrino (By Available Light), Vlado Kreslin (Instead of Whom does the Flower Bloom), Luka Novak (The Golden Shower), and Max Layton (When the Rapture Comes).

Posted in Reviews.