Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
Shooting Craps opens in a small town in the New England region where Mayor Joanna Caruso (Andrea Bianchi) is up for re-election. Unfortunately, she comes from a family whose history is rooted in dubious tactics. Case in point: Joanna's Uncle Carmine (Stephen Mandillo) flipped a teacher upside down for not giving his niece a higher grade.
Making matters worse, a former associate of Carmine's named Primo Bologna (Frank Senger) comes back into Carmine's life in time for Joanna's battle for a second term. Luckily for the Carusos, matriarch Lena (Irma St. Paule) keeps Primo at bay with the infamous "evil eye." To strengthen Joanna's re-election, the mayor wants to secure rights to build a gambling casino in their town to bring in more profits. However, so many casinos are being built, they are running out of Native Americans to run the establishments. The Carusos need an Indian to legitimize the casino, but to no avail.
As news of the casino spreads, along comes Chief Buffalo Calf (Jim DeMarse). He claims to be from the Agua Caliente tribe and would be honored to run the casino. Since so many towns want to be in on the casino boom, faux-Indians are being made to cash in, making Mayor Caruso question Buffalo Calf's authenticity. Add an inquisitive stranger (Dean Harrison) to this mix, and you don't have to know Shakespeare to recognize the errors of this comedy.
Tom Dulack's look into the future of Native Americans and their ownership of casinos is worn down with stereotypes from "F-Troop" to "The Sopranos." He attempts to put a comedic spin on the topic, but the delivery is weak. Instead of telling a story, Dulack ends up with a ridiculous farce that comes off insulting to those who preserved this land. Adding salt to the wound is John Tillinger's lack of direction, leaving the cast to their own devices.
Most of the players come off as caricatures; Stephen Mendillo's Carmine is a tired imitation of Paul Sorvino in Goodfellas, while Frank Senger's Primo Bologna is the conventional Frankie No-Name, who, if doesn't gets his way, well ... you get the picture. Andrea Bianchi conveys the beleaguered mayor Joanna with an Alfred E. Neuman pose: "What? Me, worry?" Jim DeMarse's interpretation of Buffalo Calf is simply annoying and downright wrong.
The only person who saves this show from becoming a complete loss is Irma St. Paule, an octogenarian thespian whose dialect from the old country is dead on and whose comedic timing clicks like she's twenty again. Twice the age of her colleagues, sympathies go out to St. Paule for having to carry this unacceptable presentation on her shoulders.
The production values also leave something to be desired. Michael Schweikardt's bland set design of a homely kitchen clashes with Michael Gilliam's lighting. Gilliam needs to explain to the technician running the lights the difference between slow dims and complete blackouts and recommend choosing which one they want to keep. What's even worse is the sound at the Maltz; the players are so barely audible that we need hearing aids to listen.
Shooting Craps is the Maltz's first tryout for Broadway. Hopefully, it won't be the last, because if it makes it to the Great White in this condition, the producers might end up rolling snake eyes!
Shooting Craps continues at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre until February 20th. For tickets, please call (561) 575-2223 or (800) 445-1666.
MALTZ JUPITER THEATRE Shooting Craps
Cast: Andrea Bianchi, Jim DeMarse, Dean Harrison,
Scenic Design: Michael Schweikardt
Directed by John Tillinger
-- Kevin Johnson