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‘Voices’ speaks volumes

Acclaimed Italian actor Toni Servillo stars as AlberSapori'Inner Voices' productiTeatro Piccolo di Milano presented Chicago Shakespeare's Courtyard Theater June 25-29.

Acclaimed Italian actor Toni Servillo stars as Alberto Saporito in "Inner Voices," a production of Teatro Piccolo di Milano presented at Chicago Shakespeare's Courtyard Theater June 25-29.

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June 25-29

Where: Chicago Shakespeare Courtyard Theater, 800 E. Grand, Navy Pier

Tickets: $50-$70

Info: (312) 595-5600; Presented in Italian with projected English translations

We hear, but are we really listening?

It’s just one question that comes to mind in Italian playwright Eduardo De Filippo’s “Inner Voices,” running June 25-29 at Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Courtyard Theater. The touring production, staged by Piccolo Teatro di Milano and two other Italian theater companies, arrives in Chicago via a collaborative sponsorship between Chicago Shakespeare, the Italian Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago.

The dark comedy tells of a man who dreams that his good friend has been murdered by neighbors; the dream is so vivid that he believes it to be real, leading him to contact the police who make their arrests, though no body is found. Ultimately the friend returns, alive and well. By then, so many plot lines of lies and truth have been set in motion that life in the play’s ravaged, post-World War II Italian town will never be the same.

Written in 1948, the rarely staged “Inner Voices” stars Toni Servillo, one of Italy’s most acclaimed stage and screen actors as Alberto, the man with the vivid imagination; his real-life brother, Peppe Servillo, as Carlo (Alberto’s brother), and 15 members of the Piccolo Teatro ensemble. It is directed by the troupe’s artistic director Luca Ronconi.

“The war changed the nature of man, and we no longer know how to communicate or understand each other,” Servillo told Le Monde earlier this year, when discussing the play’s message.

In an interview with the Sun-Times via Skype from his home in Caserta in southern Italy, the charming and charismatic Servillo said he was thrilled the play was coming to Chicago, a politically charged city he has longed to visit.

“This will be my first time in Chicago, so it is something of great emotion for me,” Servillo said. “To really get to know the city, because so many [people] only know the city through gangster movies. But I know this is not the case. I know Chicago to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”

Servillo may be a stranger to American audiences, but in Italy (and Europe), he is among the acting elite, an award-winning television and film actor and occasional opera director; he also has won best actor awards at the Venice and Rome film festivals and the Italian Golden Globe. His most notable film role to date is that of former Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti in the critically acclaimed “Il Divo,” which won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2008. His other major film credits include “Gomorrah” (2008), “The Girl by the Lake” (2007) and his most recent effort, “La Grande Bellezza,” which premiered last month at Cannes.

His love for stagecraft led him in 1987 to found the Teatro Uniti theater company in his native Naples. (That troupe is co-producing “Inner Voices” along with Piccolo Teatro and Teatro di Roma.) Works of political idealism and social awareness as well as the classics are the reasons he was drawn to the stage and ultimately the film projects he has done.

“Theater and cinema, I am equally passionate about [them],” Servillo said. “I have done more in the theater, as I did not do movies until much later in my career. But they are both fulfilling crafts. ...Acting is a path of self-knowledge.”

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