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Playwright and law student Tony Fiorentino

Tony Fiorentino

Tony Fiorentino

In the weeks and days leading up to the general election, America will be roiled by a host of debates, from the domestic economy and foreign policy to immigration, the environment and beyond. Playwright and law student Tony Fiorentino has seized that moment, using the stage as a sounding board to share his thoughts on such issues while continuing to cultivate his political and legal interests.

Fiorentino’s eighth play, “The Feast,” will open on Oct. 16 at Prop Thtr., and the timing of the production couldn’t be better. “The play is about the healthcare system in the United States,” Fiorentino explains. “On a deeper level, it’s really about a much more fundamental debate playing out.”

“The Feast” arrives in Chicago after a successful run at the National New Play Network’s Fall Showcase in Philadelphia, where it emerged as a semi-finalist for both the Stanley Drama Award and the Smith Prize. The Chicago production is in the capable hands of a pair of theatrical all-stars, Prop Thtr. Artistic Director Stefan Brun and Director Brian Bell, and it is in line for review by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

Fiorentino started writing the play in 2009 during the height of the debate over affordable healthcare. After exhaustive research, he crafted a dark political satire about Vincent Baker, an insurance executive whose family is tormented by a policyholder who was denied a medical claim.

In the course of the drama, Baker’s excessive wealth and heartless double-dealings are laid bare, forcing him to confront the toll taken by the seemingly perfect American life that he’s created for himself. “We have had some very bad results from entirely privatized insurance, such as higher mortality and lower vaccination rates and large bankruptcy numbers from healthcare costs, even though we are a relatively wealthy country,” Fiorentino notes.

Fiorentino has long been concerned about the state of healthcare in America, and the play has afforded him an outlet to share those concerns while offering the audience the leeway to decide where they stand on the subject. “Much of the play grapples with the polarization we see in political discourse now,” he explains. “It also addresses the debate that is always playing out as to whether we should be a ‘me’ society or a ‘we’ society.”

Fiorentino recently moved back to his old stomping grounds in Champaign-Urbana to pursue a law degree at the University of Illinois, where he earlier earned an undergraduate degree in theater. In the course of his studies, he has discovered that his legal and theatrical passions go hand in hand. “My writing has been informed by studying law, and vice versa,” he explains. “When I’m in front of the jury and putting on a show, it helps me to be a strong advocate.”

Fiorentino comes from good legal stock. His father, Steve Fiorentino, is a veteran trial attorney in Chicago as well as a past president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, and his brother Michael is in practice with their dad.

Tony initially chose a more artistic path, founding Diamante Productions in 2005 and staging a string of critically acclaimed plays. But the call of the courtroom was too strong. And while most of his theatrical passion is being poured into his legal pursuits, he still has time for his first love.

Fiorentino is currently at work on his ninth play, and it should come as no surprise that it has a political theme. A comedy about a liberal and a conservative who fall in love, it follows the pair as they navigate the philosophical riptides of their budding relationship.

Once Fiorentino earns his J.D., he plans on continuing to meld his legal and theatrical passions. “The greatest theater I did this year was in the courtroom,” he enthuses. “I want to focus on being a trial attorney, that’s where the show is.”

The Feast runs through Dec. 16 at Prop Thtr., 33502 N. Elston, Chicago. Performances are on Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door, by calling 773-539-7838 or by visiting www.propthtr.org.

About Alanna Chiefari

Alanna Chiefari is a 2007 graduate of Saint Mary’s college-Notre Dame. She has been writing for Fra Noi since the winter of 2011 and is absolutely thrilled to feature young Italian-American adults who are off to a great start. Alanna has been working as a client associate on a wealth management team for Merrill Lynch since May of 2007. In her spare time, she loves exploring Italian culture by reading books, trying new restaurants and meeting Italian Americans who are benefiting the community. Follow her on Twitter at @LannaDionne.