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My Italian Wife, a comedy in 3 acts (2 females, 2 males)
Foreplay, a black comedy in 4 acts (2 females, 1 male)
Sex Therapy, a black comedy in 13 scenes (5 females, 3 males)
Via Roma, a tragicomedy in 4 acts (4 females, 3 males)
Italy Revisited, a drama in 2 acts (2 males, 2 females)
Tell Me Why I Should Say, Yes, a drama in 3 acts (2 females, 1 male)
Painting Moments in Black & Sunny Orange, a one act play (1 male)

My Italian Wife
A light-hearted comedy about 2 sisters and their marital foibles

Written by
Mary Melfi

Directed by
Leo Samà

Nov. 26th to Nov. 29th 2015

Casa d’Italia, Montreal

Lisa Giannini as Rita Romano, an English teacher of Italian descent
Paolo De Paola as Dr. John Ross, a Montreal surgeon (Rita's husband)
Catherine De Luca as Paula Romano, a secretary (Rita's sister)
Anthony Gervasi as Carlo Ferrara, an actor

Mary Melfi’s “My Italian Wife” is a light-hearted comedy about sex, love and marriage. In the play, Rita Romano, a teacher of Italian descent, suspects her much younger sister, Paula, of having an affair with her husband, a Montreal surgeon. Rita, who grew up poor but is now rich, battles it out with Paula, who grew up rich but is now poor. Complications, misunderstandings and disagreements arise. Strong emotions clash; tradition and contemporary values conflict. The two sisters, one Italian- born, the other Canadian-born, seemingly have nothing in common and yet their love for each other is evident (Or is it?). You don’t have to be Italian to recognize yourself in them.

Audience Reaction to Sold-Out Production (One extra show added)

“Out of ten I give it an eleven” Egidio Vincelli (Italian-Canadian artist & sculptor)

“Mary Melfi is a female Oscar Wilde – an Oscar Wildette” (writer and filmmaker, Antonio D’Alfonso)

“Entertaining and funny” Robert Albanese (musician & theatre enthusiast)

“A masterpiece” Lisa Leder (nurse & playwright’s cousin)

CTV What’s On with Christine Long Wednesday November 25th 2015

Radio Interviews
CFMB AM 1280 Montreal Multilingual Radio Station. Interviewer: Lidia Russo: Nov. 18th 2015.

On-line Magazine interviews
(re. book publication of "My Italian Wife") Open Book/ Interviewer: Grace, January 10th 2013 Italocanadese Interviewer: Agata De Santis, Oct 10th 2012

General Comments on the Playwright’s Works
“Melfi... thrives as a powerful force in the Canadian literary landscape.”
Italian Canadiana, Vol XXX, 2016

“While Melfi’s writing exhibits a mastery of understanding, sympathizing with and challenging her characters, her proclivity for exploring subjects that are close to home has also allowed her to develop an ability to speak to complex, human subjects and relationships. Her writing is humorous and truthful….”
Panoram Italia June/July 2015 vol.10 No. 3

“Melfi’s work is not only – to use those hanging definitions – a work of excellence, it is so remarkably well-developed in all genres, from poetry to the novel, from the play to the modern fairy tale, that it deserves a recognition that has been late in coming. Melfi’s work achieves importance by bringing into play, displacement, irony, ethnicity, class and gender – for being both of the times and outside of time…. A body of work of international stature…. Mary Melfi’s works are a source of ‘energy delight,’ an oeuvre that continues to entertain, inform, amaze and stimulate interpretation of this critical world we have come to call home, however different it is made to be, by a joyous polyphony of being.”
Dr. William Anselmi, Essays on Her Work (Guernica Editions, 2007)

Her writings are characterized by an avant-garde sensibility that transgress the conventions of a given literary form (whether it is poetry, drama, or fiction)…. Melfi is interested in the metaphysical side of human existence, the difficulties of establishing a coherent feminine identity, cultural dislocation, and the artist’s attempt to create a new reality.
The Concise Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, 2011

As a writer who works across genre lines, producing an impressive number of plays, poetry collections, novels, children’s books, and biography, Melfi’s work explicitly addresses issues of class, ethnicity, and gender in a highly ironic, surrealistic style. It is this well-developed sense of style, and her precise, careful manipulation of narrative form… that presents, unarguably, a writer whose skill and complex negotiations with identity is glaringly absent from the Canadian literary canon.
Vanessa Lent, Canadian Literature, Spring 2010

Leo Sama - Playwright, director and producer, Leo emigrated to Canada from his native Calabria (Italy) at the age of five. His passion for theatre, emigration and anything Italian have driven him not only to stage and direct but also to write his own plays. From 1982 to 2001 he worked mainly writing and staging his own plays in Italian (St-Viateur ‘65, Residenza, ‘U Bloccu, Sotto Vuoto, Donne di Briganti). In 2001 he founded PIER 21 PRODUCTIONS, accepting thus the huge challenge of promoting English theatre in the north-eastern corner of the Island of Montreal. Norm Foster’s Wrong for Each Other, Addolorata by Marco Micone and the classic Filumena Marturano by Eduardo De Filippo are only a few of the Leo's productions. St-Viateur ‘65 and The Bunker (firstly Sotto Vuoto in Italian), two Leo Sama original plays, were translated and adapted from Italian to English and have been staged at the Leonardo Da Vinci Center in the past few years, obtaining good media reviews and favorable spectator response. Leo is also co-founder and administrator of the Teatro Stabile Leonardo da Vinci. Directing Mary Melfi's light-hearted comedy My Italian Wife represents Leo his latest project, having emigration and Italian-Canadians as the central theme.

Lisa Giannini – Has extensive stage experience, especially in Italian theatre; she began her acting career back in 1994 with the Gruppo Teatrale Calabresi nel Mondo. Appeared in most of Leo Sama’s plays. Who can forget all the extraordinary characters she has played? Filumena Marturano in Eduardo de Filippo’s classic, Addolorata in Marco Micone’s play carrying the same name and Michela in Donne di Briganti by Leo Sama. With enthusiasm, she takes on the role of Rita in Mary Melfi's My Italian Wife.

Paolo De Paola – Left Italy at the age of 23 to study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York where he developed his acting and playwright talents. He taught in Paris, London and New York. Paolo’s passion for theatre has no limits. Important to mention the two plays he has written, produced and directed: Donald’s Affair and Soleil Rose. He is also very involved in Montreal’s Italian theatre community. His stage work with Leo Sama includes Eduardo de Filippo’s Filumena Marturano and The Bunker a Leo Sama creation. He plays John in Mary Melfi's My Italian Wife.

Catherine De Luca - is a John Abbot College graduate: Professional Theatre Acting Program. Some of her teachers include Joan McBride, Rob Burns, Terry Donald, Jason Howell and Andy Cuk. Her most noteworthy theatre performances includes "Ali" in Soleil Rose and "Amanda" in Donald's Affair, both Paolo De Paola creations, "Chrissy" in Hair and "Sandy" in Grease. She worked on several independent films, including Pimp by Meal and Vintage Lingerie. My Italian Wife marks her debut in a play directed by Leo Sama. She plays Paula.

Anthony Gervasi - A Dawson College Professional Theater Program graduate in Montreal has been active in the Montreal artistic stage for over a decade. He has performed in a several Pier 21 theatre productions with Leo Sama. Noteworthy, his performance in Dawson College's production of Gemini, in which he played the lead role of Fran. Independent film productions and modeling are some of Anthony's other passions. In Mary Melfi's My Italian Wife, he plays Carlo.


Script-in-hand reading of Mary Melfi’s play, “Via Roma,” & Book launch of, “In the Backyard”


TITLE: FOREPLAY, a black comedy in 4 acts (publisher: Guernica Editions, 2012)

TAGLINE: How far will a man go to give his woman an orgasm? If cunnilingus and S&M won’t do it, will solving a murder mystery do the trick?

CHARACTERS: 2 women, 1 man

TIME: The Present

PLACE: An island off the West Coast in the late autumn

SYNOPSIS: Foreplay explores the relationship of an economically well-off but emotionally insecure couple, who take a vacation on a remote island on the West Coast, supposedly to improve their sex lives. Nothing is quite as it seems -- the couple may or may not have been recently unfaithful, a murder may or may not have been committed in their rented cottage, and the presumed murder victim may or may not have been the husband’s past life therapist. Circumstances force the young couple to face their mutual fears and suspicions, allowing the expression of their underlying genuine attraction, passion and love for each other to surface. As they set out to unravel the tangle of their at times confused thoughts and feelings, the solution of the “murder mystery” is also revealed.


DATE AND LOCATION: Nov. 3rd, 1995; a Montreal studio; a script-in-hand-reading


CAST: Claire Sherwood, Richard Lock, Anne Page

DATE AND LOCATION: April 10-12, 1980; Factory Theatre Lab, Toronto, a script-in-hand reading, originally titled, “Equation: Sex + Death”

SPONSOR: The University of York Theatre Department

DRAMATURG: Don Rubin. DIRECTOR: Faith Shur.

CAST: Barbara Ades and Shawn Zevit.

TITLE: MY ITALIAN WIFE, a comedy in 3 acts (publisher: Guernica Editions, 2012; revised for the Casa d’Italia 2015 production)

TAGLINE: A light-hearted comedy about 2 sisters and their marital foibles… Is being too Italian good for a marriage?

CHARACTERS: 2 women, 2 men.

TIME: mid-1990s.

PLACE: A park by a lake.

SYNOPSIS: My Italian Wife is a light-hearted comedy about sex, love and marriage. In the play, a teacher of Italian descent, Rita Romano, suspects her much younger sister, Paula, of having an affair with her husband, a heart surgeon. Rita, who grew up poor but is now rich, battles it out with Paula, who grew up rich but is now poor. Complications, misunderstandings and disagreements arise. The two sisters, one Italian-born, the other Canadian-born, seemingly have nothing in common and yet their love for each other is evident (Or is it?) You don’t have to be Italian to recognize yourself in them.


DATE AND LOCATION: November 26-29, 2015; Casa d’Italia, Montreal, full production (sold out).

PRODUCER: The Sons of Italy (Montreal chapter).


CAST: Lisa Giannini, Paolo De Paolo, Catherine De Luca and Anthony Gervasi.

-DATE AND LOCATION: October 26, 1996; Davenport Perth Center, Toronto, a script-in-hand reading, originally titled “½ Italian, ½ Klingon”


SPONSOR: The Association of Italian-Canadian Writers

Director: Ann Page

CAST (Act 1): Deborah Verginelli, Ann Page and Bill Radwan

TITLE: SEX THERAPY, a black comedy in 13 scenes (publisher: Guernica Editions, 1996)

TAGLINE: A patient’s attempts to seduce her therapist turn real nasty when both individuals become suspects in an art theft

CHARACTERS: 5 women, 3 men

TIME: The present

PLACE: A psychologist’s office.

SYNOPSIS: Sex Therapy takes a whimsical look at the relationship between a group therapist and his patients, exploring the nature of their shared intimacies. When one of the patients makes a bold attempt to seduce the therapist, complications arise. The theft of an antiquarian Roman doll implicating therapist and patients alike further challenges one’s traditional ideas about doctor/patient roles and expectations. Strange and sensuous, this play, part realistic, part Kafkaesque (Scene 12) is imbued with caustic wit and irreverence toward the status quo.


-DATE AND LOCATION: Oct. 24, 1998, Vancouver, script-in-hand reading

SPONSOR: Italian-Canadian Writers’ Conference

CAST (Scene 3): Thrasso Petras and Lopa Das.

-DATE AND LOCATION: July 28, 1994, The Green Room, 499 Bloor St. West Toronto.

SPONSOR: The Toronto Community Italian Television Station & The Nice Italian Girls, Subversive Poetry, Short Fiction and Drama Evening.

CAST (Scene 3): Deborah Verginelli and Geoff Wiebe

-DATE AND LOCATION: February 10, 1994; Liberal Arts College, Concordia University, Montreal, a script-in-hand reading


CAST: Emma Campbell, Martin David Chochinov, Paul Dijkman, Alana Ghent, Niki Landau, Rosmarie MacNeil, Andrew Matheson and Ann Page


TITLE: VIA ROMA, a play in 4 acts (adapted for the stage by the author from the novel of the same name, published by Guernica Editions, 2015)

TAGLINE: a murder mystery with a romantic & metaphysical twist

CHARACTERS: 4 women, 3 men

TIME: The Present

PLACE: A restaurant/bar in Montreal’s Little Italy

SYNOPSIS: Drawn to and intrigued by two men of Italian descent, Sophie Wolfe, a native-born Montrealer, chooses one over the other, setting into motion a series of events that culminates in the death of her husband. Determined to find out if her husband was accidentally killed or deliberately killed, Sophie Wolfe sets out on a road trip of a lifetime. Can she manage to stay alive long enough in a shady area of Rome, during the Carnival season, to find out the answers she is looking for? All is fair in love and war (Or is it?).


-DATE AND LOCATION: August 23, 2018. Concordia University, Loyola Chapel, Montreal.

SPONSORS: NDG Arts Week, Theatre NDG (Artistic director, Ryan Madden).

CAST: Marissa M Blair, Erin Farmer-Perrine, Michael Aronovitch, Irwin Rapoport, Mel Guimont, Ira Salman and Elise DeBussac.

-DATE AND LOCATION: November 16, 2017, Casa d’Italia; script-in-hand-reading.


CAST: Catherine De Luca, Patricia Legare, Nick Fontaine, Paolo Di Paolo, Erine Perrine and Elise DeBussac.


TAGLINE: Will finding 13 reasons why life is beautiful put an end to existential blues? And if they don’t, what will?

CHARACTERS: 2 women, 1 man

TIME: The Present

PLACE: A room in the abstract

SYNOPSIS: When the going gets tough, one can either tough it out, or crawl up to Heaven and knock on its door. Are there other options? Can therapy help? Will finding 13 reasons why life is beautiful put a damper on suicidal thoughts? “Tell Me Why I Should Say Yes,” explores the havoc existential blues can play on an individual’s life. It also suggests that resistance is not futile – humor, compassion and self-awareness can do wonders for one’s morale.

DATE AND LOCATION: Script-in-hand reading, October 30th, 2019. The Unitarian Church of Montreal

THEATRE COMPANY: Theatre NDG; Artistic director, Ryan Madden

CAST: Erin Perrine, Ryan Madden, Anna Berlyn, Christine Dandurand and Melanie Guimont.

TITLE: ITALY REVISITED, a play in 2 acts (adapted for the stage by the playwright from her memoir, “Italy Revisited, Conversations with my Mother: Guernica Editions, 2009)

TAGLINE: Will the quest for one’s ancestral roots help bridge the gap between the children of immigrants and their parents, or will it simply widen it?

CHARACTERS: 2 women, 2 men

TIME: 1993

PLACE: A kitchen in the abstract

SYNOPSIS: In Italy Revisited Mary Melfi sets out to find out what her mother’s life was like when she was growing up in Italy in the 1930s and how this influenced her upbringing in North America. The playwright’s quest for her roots takes her on a time travel trip to the 12th century. In the old South there were no amenities of any kind -- no electricity, no telephones, no indoor plumbing and no motorcars. In this part of the world barter was still in use and marriages were as much about property as they were about love. Understanding the old country and its value system should help bridge the gap between the generations, but does it? Is it ever possible for the children of immigrants to fully understand what their parents’ lives were like prior to moving to North America? Mary Melfi’s Italy Revisited comes up with unexpected answers.

TITLE: Painting Moments in Black & Sunny Orange, a one act play

TAGLINE: Painting Moments in Black and Sunny Orange tells the true-life story of Nick Palazzo, a brilliant and prolific young painter who died of AIDS before his thirtieth birthday.


TIME: 1991

PLACE: A doctor’s office in the abstract

SYNOPSIS: Painting Moments in Black & Sunny Orange tells the true life story of Nick Palazzo, a young Montreal painter who created an immense body of work -- over 2,000 paintings -- prior to dying of AIDs-related complications at the age of 29. Using Nick Palazzo’s own journal entries for material in which he describes his gay love affairs, and showcasing hundreds of his paintings on a projection screen, as well as providing critical analysis of his work by established art critics, Mary Melfi’s one man play, adapted from the book she edited (Painting Moments, Art, AIDS & Nick Palazzo: Guernica Editions, 1998) takes the audience on an emotional roller-coaster ride. It offers a graphic and detailed portrait of an artist as a young man. Looking to answer the question: ‘Can a relatively unknown 29 year old artist produce great works of art that will one day be compared to Francis Bacon’s, Edward Hooper’s, Salvador Dali’s, and yes, even Pablo Picasso’s?’ Mary Melfi’s play, Painting Moments in Black & Sunny Orange, comes up with a surprising answer.

TITLE: VARIATIONS ON A THEME, a one act play, done in 3 different versions

TAGLINE: A man and woman ask themselves what they want from their relationship

CHARACTERS: 1 women, 1 men.

TIME: The Present.

PLACE: A room.

SYNOPSIS: A couple wonder it is what they want out of life and from each other; neither of the two listen to the other. The state of the world is examined, and found meaningless.


DATE AND LOCATION: December 2-4, 1970; Loyola College, Montreal.

SPONSOR: The Literary Theatre of The Loyola College English Department.


CAST: Linda McKenty and Bryan Doubt.

REVIEWS of published plays


 [Foreplay and My Italian Wife] “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 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.”  Agata De Santis, italocanadese


[Sex Therapy]  Melfi’s intense, lyric, occasionally prophetic language produces a rich, magic texture of strong words and funny bittersweet imagery and action.” Dawn


[Sex Therapy] “Mary Melfi examines the reversal of roles, in which a therapist becomes the patient and a patient becomes the therapist, in her satirical dramatization of desire and sexuality. Sex Therapy, like other work by Mary Melfi, brings together a variety of elements: the anxieties of modern womanhood; and the textures and feelings of living in Italian and Canadian culture. These elements are shot through with Melfi’s wit, bouts of black humour. In her own way, she celebrates the absurdities of contemporary human existence.”                                  AICW Bollettino


[Sex Therapy] “An existentialist/absurdist tragicomic farce with more than a touch of futurist mystery novel, Sex Therapy is replete with word games and epigrams.”   Drama


[Sex Therapy] “The characters that inhabit her poetry, theatre, and fiction frequent ultra-familiar jaunts, the common places of Western societies. We find them in such settings as the wedding hall, the home, the office, the cottage. They are there tending, especially to a key theme of Western literature and art – sexual relations. Heterosexual relations, to be exact….Texts such as A Bride in Three Acts or Infertility Rites or Office Politics or Sex Therapy point out to us the literary ramifications, confirm to us – as only someone with Melfi’s very refined, very sophisticated awareness of how literature functions could – that if you are writer and manifest some interest in those topics you are not just “doing sociology.” You are automatically extending the scope of literariness, you are adding your two cents’ worth to what has been a lengthy conversation on literature and aesthetics…. It is comedy in the Dantesque (Catholic?) mode, a plot which reformulates in poetic parlance the case for the secular, modern currency of faith, hope and charity, of the triad that used to be known as the theological virtues.”
Dr. Francesco Loriggio, Essays on Her Works (Guernica, 2007)