Controversial 'Vatican Falls' to Get Off-Broadway Production

Wednesday September 28, 2022

James Gracia and Ace Young - Photo by: Ashley Garrett
James Gracia and Ace Young - Photo by: Ashley Garrett  

"Vatican Falls," the controversial play written by Frank J. Avella that closely examines the Catholic sex abuse scandal while telling real survivor stories and exploring the fictional journey of one particular survivor will make its world premiere this fall in a limited engagement run off-Broadway. 

The cast of "Vatican Falls" features Ace Young (Broadway's "Hair," "Grease" as well as, of course, "American Idol" season 5 Top 10), Carlotta Brentan ("Lured"), Tucker Aust ("Moonchildren"), Alice Barrett Mitchell ("Heels") with James Gracia, Danny Hilt, Kenon Veno, Edward L. Simon, Ryan Wright, and Jacopo Constantine.

The production begins previews Thursday, Oct. 27, and will run through Sunday, Nov. 20, at The Tank, 312 W. 36th St. in Manhattan. The play will be co-directed by Avella and Carlotta Brentan ("Lured") and is a High Voltage co-production with The Tank. Tickets can be purchased here:


"Vatican Falls" has had seven world premieres canceled in four different countries in the last decade, most notoriously in Rome, Italy, in 2011 at Teatro Vascello, when the plug was pulled on the show by fearful producers the night before opening amidst controversy and claims of death threats. 

Based on factual accounts, spanning decades and set against the backdrop of the continuously-swelling Catholic sex abuse scandal, "Vatican Falls" is a sweeping multi-genre work that follows survivor journeys examining the feelings of shame and confusion that ultimately turn to anger and revenge.

This fast-paced, non-linear suspense-thriller jets from Boston to Rome to New York to Los Angeles as our radicalized protagonist falls in love with a Vatican operative and, along with his Fellowship, plots vengeance on the institutional power players that allowed the rape and torture of countless children and young adults. 

Performances will run Thursdays through Sundays at 7 p.m., except on 11/5, 11/12 & 11/19 when performances will be at 3 p.m.

Set and projection design is by Tony DiBernardo. Lighting design is by David Shocket. Costume design is by Shirlee Idzakovich. Sound design by Zëk Stewart. Publicity is by Daniel DeMello / DDPR and casting by Judy Bowman. Social media will be managed by John David West. The stage manager is Elena Jenson.

Frank J. Avella recently wrote and directed his first film, the multi-award-winning short "Fig Jam." He is the recipient of an International Writers Residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle (Assisi, Italy), a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, a Helene Wurlitzer Residency Grant and a NJ State Arts Council Fellowship Award. Frank's feature length screenplays include "Consent," "Lured," and "Screw The Cow" which, along with "Fig Jam," have won over 33 awards and are selections/finalists in over 200 festivals/contests worldwide.

He has written numerous plays including "Vatican Falls," (2021 O'Neill semifinalist), "Lured" (2018 O'Neill semifinalist, produced in NYC & Rome, co-directed with Ms. Brentan), and most recently, "Lockdown." Frank is also a film journalist for Awards Daily and EDGE Media Network, a member of the New York Film Critics Online and the Studio Liaison for GALECA—the Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics.

Carlotta Brentan is a New York-based theater artist specializing in the development of challenging new plays as an actor, producer, director and translator. Stage highlights: World Premieres of Frank J. Avella's "Lured," (also co-directed, sold-out runs at Theater for The New City in NYC and OnStage! Festival in Rome), Paolo Bignami's "The Journey I Never Made" (also translated from the original Italian, Cherry Lane Theatre), Erik Ehn's "Clover" (La MaMa ETC) Carlotta is also a film actor, prolific voiceover artist and award-winning audiobook narrator.

High Voltage Productions was birthed by Ashley Garrett and Frank J. Avella. HVP produced the award-winning short film, "Fig Jam," in 2021.