Man, does this play bring back memories…..
Growing up in an extended Italian family, on my mom’s Calabrese side, that all lived on or around our street in Brooklyn, and then followed us to Long Island, I was regaled with so many stories. My great aunts and uncles told us tales of the mob, ghosts, and what old NYC was all about. They are all gone now, and I miss those days in their kitchens eating wonderful homemade Italian food while also dealing with the good-natured arguing and bickering among them. As you have heard Italians can be very loud and passionate. It was all in love, and to this day I can still hear their voices inside my head. The yelling. The screaming. The laughing. I miss all of it.
Suffice to say, I was extremely pleased to be invited to a blogger event to view a recent performance of Dinner With The Boys. This off-Broadway play was written and performed by Dan Lauria/Charlie (The Wonder Years), and along with Richard Zavaglia/Dom (Donnie Brasco), and Ray Abruzzo/Big Anthony Jr ( The Sopranos) put on a terrific show!
Located at the intimate Acorn Theater in Theater Row it provided what I thought was the perfect setting for a three-man play such as this. The whole performance takes place in a kitchen of a suburban New Jersey home that best friends Charlie and Dom are hiding out in after being placed there by mob boss Big Anthony Jr. They are living the life of mobsters in hiding in a kind of witness protection plan. Charlie yearns for the mob lifestyle he once knew and hates the boring burbs. Dom, as the great chef to “the family” enjoys his new life and doesn’t want to go back. He likes the peace and quiet living with Charlie, and wants to open a restaurant. Charlie eventually agrees with Dom and settles to go along with it. After all, Charlie grows great veggies in his backyard garden. Must be the “special fertilizer”. Dom cooks up amazing meals with his “unique meat” plates along with Charlie’s veggies. Each night is an idyllic setting for meals at the kitchen table or out on the patio.
Sitting in the audience I could almost smell the sauce cooking on the stove.
Little do they know that a dinner visit from Big Anthony Jr would set the wheels in motion for all this coming to a possible end. The boys need to act fast and make a decision that could mean life or death. That, or even more delicious meals cooked up by Dom. Let’s just say that this play is certainly written as a “dark comedy” with a subject matter that only Dom could make tasty. No spoilers here, but if you’re ever invited over to their place for dinner make sure the knives are in plain sight, you keep on eye on Dom and his salad dressing, along with knowing for sure what the meat of the night is. Oh, and stay away from the hot pepper.
Funny stuff that had me laughing throughout. I like warped humor so this was right up my alley!
The simplistic setting is perfect for this production. The sight lines and sound are terrific. You feel as if you’re in the kitchen too listening to Charlie and Dom’s give and take, bickering and bantering, and reminiscing of old times with their best friend Leo. Even though their arguments get heated at times, and peppered with stories of mob hits, it was refreshing to hear no curse words at all. Dan Lauria has written a terrific story with humor and passion that people can enjoy, but it’s definitely not for the kiddies. Bring you parents, your nonna, or any goodfella that you’re buddies with for an enjoyable time. They will recognize the mobster and cultural references.
The performance itself is handled eloquently by a bunch of experienced old pros. Wonderful dynamic between each. Ray Abruzzo also takes on the role of The Uncle Sid with a different look and dialect. Great stuff and gets funnier as the play goes on once you realize what is actually happening. If you’re a fan of mob movies, or grew up in a family like mine, you’ll get this and have a good time.
After the play we were treated to a blogger Q & A with the cast! It was insightful as the guys answered every question, and again, with some funny interaction among them. Dan Lauria, a Brooklyn and Long Island boy himself, told us about the times he hung out with Jack Klugman, Dom DeLuise, and Peter Falk as he was writing this and doing the first readings. They also told us some behind the scenes stuff of their TV shows and how Hollywood works. Interesting stuff for sure. They even took the time to snap some pictures with us afterwards. Gentlemen for sure.
Dan Lauria has conjured up a mob tale with a unique twist on it. More like a story of friendship with a bent little dark sense of humor sprinkled throughout. It’s only being performed for a limited run so go see it soon. Nice job boys!
Oh, and make sure you dump the meatballs in the sauce and leave simmering on the stove top over a low flame all morning on Sunday. The boys will be by to stir it and dip the bread while you’re out. Hide the hot pepper.
Dinner With The Boys – http://dinnerwiththeboysplay.com/
Acorn Theater – http://www.theatrerow.org/acornnowplaying