RAISE ME UP
Santa Monica Playhouse
Reviewed by Carol Kaufman Segal

Raise Me Up is a love story written by Lisa Phillips Visca. It is poignant, funny, and unforgettable, the true story of her parents, Louis and Daphne Padula.

Louis Padula (Michael Marinaccio) is a young Italian living in Staten Island in the early 1950’s. Louis and his brother Johnny (Mitch Lerner) meet a beautiful young girl, Rosita Theofanous (Serena Dolinsky) on the Staten Island Ferry. But it is Louis who speaks to her and, as fate would have it, cupid strikes them both and it is “love at first sight.”

Unfortunately, Louis’ parents are from Italy, Rosita’s parents are from Greece, and both families are mired in their ethnic traditions. Rosita’s father, Chronis Theofanous (Stuart Pankin), has already chosen a husband for her and forbids her to see Louis. Her mother, Anna Theofanous (Evelyn Rudie), is not quite as belligerent, wanting her daughter to be happy. On the other hand, Jerry Padula (John Del Regno ) and Josephine Padula (Lenora May) are not overly thrilled that their son broke up with an Italian girl and fell in love with one from a Greek family.

When her father’s job is at stake unless she marries Dimitri (Joey Shea), the man for whom he works, Rosita feels obligated to accept Dimitri’s proposal. But fate works in wonderful ways, and as Lisa Phillips Visca says, “Fate brought my parents together from different cultures and different worlds….Their love triumphed over the forces of tradition, prejudice and the cultural mores of the time.”

The play opens with Louis (Ben Feuer) and Daphne Padula, (Rosita’s professional name when she became a model, played by Marla Adams) in their late years after having been married for fifty years. They return after their story is told.

Raise Me Up is directed by Chris DeCarlo. A cast of extremely fine actors bring so much life into the characters. Dialects are absolutely perfect. Costumes by Ashley Hayes are wonderful as they always are in all productions at the Santa Monica Playhouse.

Visca has written a wonderful tribute to her parents, and the production is one you should not miss.

It plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 PM, through May 19, at the Santa Monica Playhouse Main Stage, located at 1211 4th Street in Santa Monica. For reservations, go online at www.SantaMonicaPlayhouse.com, or call the Playhouse Box Office at (310) 394-9779, ext. 1. For group sales, use ext. 2.

Highly recommended.

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