John Patrick Shanley is known for creating quirky, lovable Italian-American characters. Remember Moonstruck?
In Italian American Reconciliation, at Little Lake Theatre, Shanley gives us five very quirky characters.
Unfortunately, he forgot the "lovable" part.
In NYC's Little Italy, Huey (Nathan Bell) decides he can't live without his ex-wife, Janice (Liz Roberts) — even though she shot and killed his dog. He enlists the help of his best friend, Aldo (Eric Leslie): Huey will break up with his current waitress girlfriend, Teresa (Michelina Anne Pollini), while Aldo butters up Janice. Adding a monkey wrench to the story is Teresa's Aunt May (Mary Romeo).
The cast tries to be likable, but they don't get much help from the script, which paints them as whiners.
Leslie (as Aldo) has great interplay with the audience throughout the show. And his physical comedy is on the mark. But Bell spends most of this modern play dressed as some Renaissance peasant, supposedly to "return to the past." If this is Shanley's idea of "funny," it doesn't work.
As for the female characters, Romeo brings much-needed humor to the show. But Roberts is burdened with playing a truly unsympathetic character. Remember shooting the dog? That's not the worst of what she's done. And this is the woman Huey can't live without?
Roberts and Leslie do share the best scene of the show, at the top of Act II.
The dialects are very uneven. Either everyone should learn the accent, or no one should do one. Leslie comes the closest to achieving the correct sound, while Bell all but abandons his dialect halfway through his first scene.
Director Art DeConciliis does an admirable job keeping this very sit-and-talk play moving. This play would truly be a snooze in the hands of an inexperienced director. And he keeps the pace of the production moving well. It's just one of those plays that every time the lights go down, you think it's over. And then the lights come up … again.
With any luck at all, DeConciliis and this plucky band of actors will one day work together again on a more entertaining show.