Setting: New York City, sometime in the late 1940's
Cast: 5 women, 2 men
It’s the opening day of Leonie Palazotto’s tearoom, Tea-A-Ria. Leonie's very Italian family doesn’t quite grasp the concept of "teatime" but is willing to do anything to help her. As if a distraught aunt, a formidable grandmother, and a young Italian man mooning over her don't provide enough challenge, an English couple new to America put in an appearance, as does a most unwanted guest. Friends and family must pull together to overcome the obstacle that is Enza Malandra.
Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. I am Leonie Palazatto and I want to welcome all of you to Tea-A Ria, a tearoom where you can relax with a fine cup of tea and enjoy a bit of old world ambience...
(enters from kitchen brandishing a large kitchen knife)
Leonie Palazatto! I’ma not a cuttin the crusts offa the bread!
(looks at a guest)
Whoever hearda such a thing! It don’ta maka no sense!
Give me just a moment please…
(to NONA LENA)
Nona Lena, we’ve already discussed this. You-cut-the-crusts-off-the-bread-at-teatime! It’s just the way it’s done!
First everything has to be “bite sized”! Now this! I don’ta see how you’re gonna fill these people up!
Nona Lena, please. Just cut the crusts off the bread.
(to a guest)
Does this maka any sense to you. It’s pazzo!
NONA LENA exits to kitchen.
Thank you Nona Lena! Pardon me, ladies and gentlemen. Italians….they don’t quite understand teatime. My Nona Lena wants to put garlic in everything. I told her, over and over, you can’t have that much garlic at teatime! And oh, the battle we had over the vincisgrassi! I say, “Nona Lena, nobody eats cinnamon scented chicken gizzards at teatime. It don’t matter if they’re in béchamel sauce!
That woman! But what are you are going to do when your Nona Lena loves you so much that she’ll do anything – anything – to help…do you hear water running? I do not hear water running. Do you know what that means? It means Nona Lena is not warming the teapots! I told her, over and over, “Nona Lena, we’ve got to warm the teapots!” If you’ll excuse me, I must go into the kitchen.
(begins exiting to kitchen and stops at kitchen entrance)
Nona Lena, why are the teapots not warming!?
LEONIE exits to kitchen. SABINA enters from front, dramatically.
Leonie! Leonie Palazatto, where are you?
(to a guest)
Darling, tell me, where’s my little Leonie? She is an easy one to recognize for she is a very beautiful.
Our beauty, it has sometimes been the curse of the Palazatto women.
But, Leonie should be greeting her guests! I knew she would need me today.
(LEONIE enters with a teapot.)
Aunt Sabina! What are you doing here?
Ah…salve, Cara Mia. Look at you! So beautiful on your opening day.
(to a guest)
Isn’t she beautiful on her opening day? Beauty such as yours…
(puts her hands on LEONIE’S face, shaking it from side to side)
…would make Michael Angelo cry!
(turns away from LEONIE and speaks to a guest)
Why she has no husband – it is one of life’s great mysteries.
(hands teapot to any guest)
Aunt Sabina, please, do not start with the “Why doesn’t Leonie have a husband!” Look at me! Time is passing. I might end up a zitella. But, at least I’ll be an old maid with a career. I’ll have Tea-A-Ria.
A career! Cara Mia, are you so sure that is what you want? Trust me child, when you’re an old woman a lookin back on your life, it won’t be a career that brings the light to your face – it will be your life as a wife…and a mother. But never mind, I like to mind my own business.
(removes her coat and hands it to LEONIE)
By the way, your uncle Raphaele? He gives me this beautiful necklace last night. It is gorgeous, no? But then…
(becomes emotional, pulling a handkerchief from her sleeve)
…out the door he walks and he doesn’t come back home – not all night!
(taking SABINA’S coat)
Oh, Aunt Sabina, not again! I’m so sorry. But, the necklace…
(gestures for the house to agree)
…it is really quite beautiful.
Yes, it is very unusual, perhaps a one of a kind – but it would have been nice to have the necklace and your uncle Raphaele at home.
(to a guest while shaking her head)
Some men, they need a long leash. He’s having a…what do you call it? Ah…a midlife crisis. Me, I should be a saint, with all I put up with, but Raphaele is mine and I do whatever is necessary to keep him. Of course, I’ve been up all night wearing my beautiful necklace. I was so distraught; I did the only thing I could think of that would give me any comfort.
You cleaned, didn’t you?
As if the Madonna herself was coming to breakfast...or tea. Although I doubt she would do such a thing - come for tea. Cara Mia, I can’t think of anyone who would come for tea - perhaps espresso, but...
Aunt Sabina, I’ve told you! People adore teatime! It’s gracious and lovely, and brims with people just sitting quietly – sipping their tea…without barrels of drama crashing about them day after day after day.
Cara Mia, it just sounds so foreign....
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