The Academy is a school room of sorts, in which a group of young Italian men are assembling. All are named after Mussolini’s campaigns, which, according to a note in the text, was common in that time. I assume this was to set the period of the play. There seems to be no reason for it other than that. All the boys go to the Academy and Afro, has brought his friend, Fortunato, to take the test for entry. This test is in part administered by The Professor and includes an off-stage interview with his wife. He succeeds in his interview. Then Fortumato is questioned on aspects of American culture and the English language. He passes and gets to join the Academy.
There is a slow reveal that many of the students have “crushes” on the Professor’s wife. It becomes further clear that the Academy is a place for young Italian men to learn how to become unofficial gigolos, how to take advantage of American tourist women, divorcee’s, widows, young heiresses, by seducing them, winning their love and them getting them to give money. The Professor explains, or gets students to recite, the formula for proper exploitation of these women, about the Academy’s network of hotel workers, florists and gondoliers and how to use them to gain the confidence, of these women and also, their money. The Academy is paid ten percent from the earnings of each “student.”
All the students leave, each having been assigned their marks. It is revealed that the professor’s “wife” is actually a prostitute, who has been hired to asses the sexual finesse of each young man. Some of them have fallen for her and it is implied that she has for them, or at least feels some guilt for her part in getting them into this sordid profession. The professor exults in his power over her and the play ends.
What is it with this book and its weird fascination with American women in Europe behaving badly and being treated badly in return? The editor, Stanley Richards, seems to have an unhealthy fixation on this topic. Perhaps that is the only thing people wrote about at the time, although one suspects otherwise. There must have been other topics during the nine year period that encompasses this volume.
I didn’t really like this play. I found it’s premise annoying. It was written by an Italian so perhaps he is mocking an American stereotype of his young countrymen as libertines, dead set on taking money from tourists. The tone is unclear, though. The young men are presented as poor, unable to find more reputable work, and therefore sympathetic. The Professor is clearly a bad guy, and his wife is treated as his victim. I hope there’s an end to this trend.