"Filumena," by Eduardo de Filippo, might have worked as a tea-time rerun like "Arrividerci, Baby," starring Tony Curtis, Rosanna Schiaffino and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Unfortunately, it's a play.
The first thing you notice in the Olney Theater's production, which tarries a full three hours over matrimony Italian-style, is the accents.
The actress in the title role, a whore with a heart of gold, sounds like Carmen Miranda. Her leading man, the womanizing Don Domenico Soriano, tries a Guido Sarducci shtick. The chap playing Alfredo, the don's loyal butler, sounds vaguely Scandinavian. And it's anybody guess what nationality Teresina the dressmaker is shooting for.
The second thing you notice -- before, that is, you drift beyond all noticing in this theatrical ordeal -- how incredibly sappy the material gets. "Do you know what it is that makes a woman cry?" Filumena sighs at one point, in one of her interminable arguments with the don, who does lots of open-palmed head-slapping to keep things moving. "It's when she knows what happiness is, but it's beyond her reach." Then there are dozens of soliloquies, all beginning with the words, "Do you remember . . ." and ending Lord knows where.
As for yuks, there's a mincing lawyer, lines like "He's a sanitary engineer -- the same as a plumber, only more expensive," and -- mama mia! -- the don actually slipping on a banana peel. Neil Simon this ain't, though some folks in the opening-night audience seemed to think it was funny.
One glimmer in the morass is Ellen Dorsher as Diana, the don's youthful mistress. She has a sauciness that perks over the stage, but she's there and gone in the blink of an eye.
FILUMENA -- At the Olney Theater through July 19