ITALIAN AMERICAN RECONCILIATION
Jennifer Clements’ entertaining production starts off with an Italian-American bang. As you enter the tiny theatre one guy’s playing accordion, a woman’s chopping bread, another is stirring a pot of pasta, and a third is hanging laundry. Huey (Ben Ratner) sits with his head in his hands while his best friend Aldo (Bill MacDonald) starts to tell their story, working the audience like a Saturday night motel lounge act on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Huey’s is a romantic love story gone wrong. Three years ago his marriage with Janice (Lori Triolo) broke up and she shot Huey’s dog. We come to know Janice as a dangerous woman, though we won’t meet her for some time. Huey has been living with the lovely Teresa (Krystal Vrba) but her loveliness and sanity aren’t enough for him. He needs to have Janice back. He begs best friend Aldo to intercede for him with Janice while he breaks up with Teresa. Aldo, reluctantly, will, but in a curious strategic turn he’ll decide to woo Janice for himself. Italian-American fireworks ensue—followed by a strange sort of Italian-American reconciliation.
Shanley isn’t as sure-handed in this script as he is elsewhere in his work. He gets the comedy right, drawing likeable, slightly off-kilter characters with larger-than-life emotions and a penchant for the philosophical. But the arguments get repetitive and the emotions a little maudlin toward the end.
The acting, though, is terrific throughout. No one does hangdog like Ratner. His Huey is desperate, determined and slightly depressive even in victory. Triolo’s fierce Janice lives up to her billing, and Vrba gives Teresa a fine hysterical edge.
The acting awards here, though, go to Linda Darlow as Teresa’s Aunt May, the only fully sane one in the bunch, and to MacDonald, whose street-smart Aldo leads us through the insanity with a clear, strong sense of the limitations of machismo. “I’m sick from being a man,” he says—both the funniest and saddest line in the play.Jerry Wasserman