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Gemini: A wild family party in Woods Theatre

When pulling a folding chair up to Gemini’s packed dinner table, audiences get a plate piled high with zesty comedy, rich conflict, and a heaping scoop of love. With direction from Jack Burke, Ph.D., and Assistant Director Katherine Fernandez, the Monmouth University Department of Music and Theatre Arts presented Albert Innaurato’s Gemini (1976) with flair.

A snapshot of a blue-collar South Philadelphia summer circa 1973, Gemini takes place around the 21st birthday of Francis Geminiani (Anthony DeFilippo), a Harvard student back on his home turf.

The morning before the ‘big 2-1’, Francis wakes to a “SURPRISE!” from his two Ivy-league pals, siblings Judith (London Jones) and Randy Hastings (Riley Anderson), through his window. Having hitch-hiked from Boston to South Philly, the Hastings pitch a tent outside of Francis’ brick home, to his mild protest.

Almost immediately, Francis’ laborer father, Fran Geminiani (Joe Marano), and Fran’s widowed girlfriend, Lucille Pompi (Samantha Ventola & Dominique Lengyel), welcome the Hastings with Italian-American gusto, regardless of the siblings’ WASP upbringing.

The kooky next-door neighbors come into play with the confident and crass Bunny Weinberger (Emily Woods) and her asthmatic, train-obsessed son, Herschel (Nick Sewell). Both Bunny and Herschel take a liking to the young, wealthy newcomers… Randy, in particular.

With his posh friends crashing the party, Francis has to manage his family’s antics, his own romantic and sexual drama, and the impending arrival of his adulthood. In a whirlwind of drama and hilarity, each character in Gemini learns valuable lessons about life that positively change them.

The cast operated with a wonderfully chaotic dynamic, with oodles of comedic and dramatic talent. Scenes flowed by naturally, and the intimate group of us audience members was treated to a lot of belly-laughs.

All performances were standout in different ways, but Marano as Fran and Woods as Bunny delivered outrageously endearing energy levels. They turned everyday occurrences such as doling out plates of pasta or singing aloud into chuckle-inducing moments.

On his time with the cast and Innaurato’s material, Marano, a Senior, commented fondly, “Working in Gemini has been a great experience, and I will always hold this show and role close to my heart.”

Marano concluded, “While Gemini has given the audience many laughs, its overarching themes can be emotional, such as the importance of family, loyalty, and acceptance.”

DeFilippo, a Junior who expressed the rollercoaster of young Francis’ emotions with depth, also attested to the bonds the cast formed, “[Gemini] was honestly great, and one of the most talented casts I’ve ever worked with. It was also such an amazing learning experience.”

In conclusion, DeFilippo praised the team, “I had such an awesome time with this show, and my castmates made it the most fun environment to take part in.”

The set, designed by Fred DelGuercio, Rusty Carroll, and John Holler, was well-executed, with an aged brick double-home serving as a static backdrop to Gemini’s plot. The construction and paint-job of the Geminiani-Weinberger homes were very convincing, and the cast interactivity levels contributed to the authenticity. Actors moved in and out of doors and windows with ease and almost every aspect of the main set was useable.

Littering the backyard sprawled out on the Woods Theatre stage were bicycles, toys, trash cans, and other sights common to any urban neighborhood. Overall, the immobility of the set shone with its strong attention to detail alongside its genuinely lived-in feel, while its multi-level structure provided variety.

The crew for Gemini was dedicated and thorough, with Rachel Wilson as Stage Manager and Ray Laux and Katherine Fernandez as Assistants to the Stage Manager. With costumes by Pat Nurnberger, sound by Scott Buksbaum, and lighting by David Landau, the period piece was dynamic and immersive.

The direction, by Burke and Fernandez, allowed actors to amplify individual talents within the limits of Gemini’s story. It was apparent that each member of the team was well-versed in the show’s material, which provided an extraordinarily well-rounded team of creatives for Gemini.

In building on solid cast relationships with a stellar book of material, Burke’s choice to perform Albert Innaurato’s 1976 dramedy lent a wholly funny and heart-warming contribution to the Department of Music and Theatre’s history.

UPDATE: Gemini played its final performance on March 8th, 2020, following closure from the Monmouth University Center for the Arts in light of global circumstances (COVID-19). The run was originally set for March 4th through 8th, and March 10th through 12th, 2020.