This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

9Apr/21

AROUND THE TABLE READING SERIES: THE INFERNO

Abingdon Theatre Company reading of Chris Sherman’s The Inferno is a tasty treat

Abingdon Theatre Company
Through April 7, free
Abingdon Theatre Company YouTube

If you’ve been drawn to travel to the Bel Paese because of Stanley Tucci’s culinary CNN series, Searching for Italy, you can only pray that your vacation doesn’t turn out like the Sussmans’. Amid all the new Zoom plays dealing with racism, misogyny, government corruption, the economic crisis, bullying, gun violence, sexual assault, Covid-19, and other critically important sociopolitical issues that have come to the fore during the pandemic lockdown, Abingdon Theatre Company has served up a deliciously delightful and mischievous meal in the inaugural free virtual edition of its “Around the Table” reading series. Written by Chris Sherman and directed by James A. Rocco, The Inferno is not a contemporary version of Florence-born poet and philosopher Dante Alighieri’s fourteenth-century poem, but it is a divine comedy.

Ben and Annie Sussman (Jordan Bennett and Cynthia Ferrer) are in Florence, but they are literally and figuratively trapped in the home they’ve rented for a few weeks from an excited broker (Summer Minerva), as the Magic City is in the midst of a roiling heatwave that leads to a blackout. They are joined by Annie’s brother, Joey (Robert Mammana), and his girlfriend, Karen (Lyn Philistine), as the needling and complaining fly in an old-fashioned, rapid-fire laugh-fest. After breaking a mug, Ben, who is contemplating retirement, worries, “It looks like a valuable antique. ‘Made in Italy’; oh no, this is probably worth a fortune,” he says. “Ben, everything here is made in Italy,” Annie replies. Karen, looking forward to experiencing all Florence has to offer, declares, “For one week of my life, I wanna feel like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.” Joey replies, “Don’t you gotta be in Rome for that?” And Annie explains to Ben, “I’m not gonna let your brother ruin our vacation; we have my brother for that.” The Inferno offers a much-needed ninety-minute respite from all of today’s troubles as we watch a family suffer through a European trip that we’ve all been unable to take for more than a year now. Is staying at home really so bad?

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