Macaroni and Mal Occhio
By Arlene McKanic
Greenwich Village Gazette
November 15, 2002
is tempted to call Macaroni and Mal Occhio, LuLu LoLo's funny and big-hearted
one woman show My Big Fat Italian Family. Written and performed by LuLu
LoLo, with lyrics by Dan Evans, it presents the artist as the more colorful
members of her family, from her father to her aunts and cousins to her
strong, generous and bosomy (I suspect) grandmothers, Lulu and Lizzie.
Her East Harlem neighborhood was a place where people
slept on their fire escapes when it was hot, and sat on aluminum chairs
on the street, where your neighbor borrowed your clothesline when theirs
broke to dry their huge pink bloomers. Prayers were desperately offered
up to the saints for accidents and illnesses at Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Church and festivals crowded the streets. Grandma LuLu's bedroom was
like a church itself, with votive candles and pictures of the saints,
and the snow globe where rose petals fell on the Madonna. Of course,
there was lots and lots of food. Grandma LuLu made a point of stuffing
her granddaughter when she came over to eat lunch on school days. One
grandmother made round ravioli, and the other made square ravioli. For
Christmas the women had to serve seven different kinds of fish for the
seven sacraments and the day was a long orgy of eating. LuLu's family
called pasta macaroni, and tomato sauce gravy.
The family isn't the Sopranos, obviously; LuLu clearly
loves everyone she portrays and everyone is kindhearted, in their own
way. The performer appears as herself in a simple black dress and beret
on a small stage decorated only with a dressing screen, and a kitchen
table and chairs, and whips everything from fedora to feather boas and
sequins to represent members of her family (some of whom were in the
audience the afternoon the reviewer attended). For Grandma LuLu she
transforms herself into a little old lady in a blue housecoat crying,
"Mangia! Mangia! Mangia!" to her granddaughter.
She plays her father, who lost an eye in a childhood
accident, with said fedora and a swagger, and the grandfather who carried
someone's lost umbrella for days just in case someone claimed it, and
set up a shoe shine stand to help his grandson's business. In one hilarious
bit LuLu dresses in an outrageous scarlet outfit to be interviewed by
Barbara Walters. She comes on as Aunt Lena, dressed in fur stole and
sequined hat and egg-sized pearls.
This redoubtable lady can dispel the evil eye over the phone, but can
only pass on the power to the women in the family and only on Christmas
Alas, she doesn't live to pass it on to LuLu. And then
Lulu's her genial, trumpet playing cousin Cookie, who performs "Cherry
Pink and Apple Blossom White" (natch) at a wedding. It's all as
crunchy sweet as a cannoli.
By the way, LuLu's 86 year old mother still wakes up every morning and
makes the gravy.
Macaroni and Mal Occhio was presented at Raw Space on 543 West 42 street
between 10th and 11th Avenues.