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New Jersey by Bob Rendell

Dinner With The Boys: Wacky Mafia Comedy
New Jersey Repertory Company

Also see Bob's reviews of Antony and Cleopatra and Janice Underwater


Richard Zavaglia, Ray Abruzzo and Dan Lauria
Dinner With The Boys is an old fashioned, wacky and likeable Mafia comedy. It is a "bromance" featuring Charlie and Dominic, two soft hearted and weak minded, old Mafia guys who turn the tables on their wacko and vicious new generation Mafia boss who is about to terminate them for failing to carry out orders to terminate their old buddy who the junior boss wrongly believed was squealing to the authorities.

The funniest moments in the show involve murder and cannibalism. However, this production is very timid in presenting the delightful ghoulishness and splatter which rarely fail to bring down the house in comedies with similar set-ups. If director Frank Megna would supplement the character driven comic dialogue by broadly and inventively fleshing out the macabre aspects of the play with lots of shtick, Dinner With The Boys could be a real crowd pleaser.

Dinner With The Boys was written by author-actor Dan Lauria who plays Charlie opposite Richard Zavaglia's Dominic. Both actors were a little stiff at first on opening night, but they loosened up as the play progressed. By the second act, Lauria and Abruzzo were at ease with their stereotypical New York ethnic gangster patois.

The evening's treasure is Ray Abruzzo who plays crime boss Big Anthony, Jr. Dinner with the Boys springs to vivid life with his arrival on the scene about midway through the first act. Abruzzo registers as frighteningly insane, allowing the humor to arise from the extreme and extremely funny persona that author Lauria has created. Abruzzo is simultaneously extremely funny and extremely scary. The Uncle Sid, the gang's long time valued and relied upon "heeb," is a coolly scary, humorous second act addition to the play.

Resident scenic designer Jessica Parks continues to amaze with a richly detailed set of Charlie's New Jersey kitchen which features a dazzling array of properties. The illusions of spaciousness which she often creates (in this case, the width of a kitchen) on the small stage at this intimate theatre are dazzling.

Although this is its world premiere, Dinner With The Boys had an informal script in hand reading in Los Angeles eight years ago with Charles Durning (Charlie), Dom Del Louise (Dominic), Peter Falk (Big Anthony, Jr.) and Jack Klugman (The Uncle Sid). Lauria had hoped to see the play produced with these friends who have since passed away. Lauria and his cast are dedicating this production to those friends and fellow actors who are "truly missed."

Dinner With The Boys continues performances (Evenings: Thursday, Friday and Saturday 8 pm/ Matinees: Saturday 3 pm; Sunday 2 pm) through October 5, 2014, at the New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, New Jersey 07740; box office: 732-229-3166; online: www.njrep.org.

Dinner With The Boys by Dan Lauria; directed by Frank Megna

Cast
Charlie……………………………..........Dan Lauria
Dominic………………………....Richard Zavaglia
Big Anthony, Jr……………………..Roy Abruzzo
The Uncle Sid…..Morris "Moe" Rosenbaum


Photo: SuzAnne Barabas


- Bob Rendell



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