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Dinner With The Boys
Listening to Charlie and Dominic trade off stories as they also consider the options that these "good-fellas" have or don't have, one might initially get the impression that there is more to their relationship than simply the preparation of food and figuring out who did what to whom, when and why. But Lauria's skill as an actor and now as a playwright gives him an edge in a role that is designed to show him off. He is full of surprises in a performance that builds up a head of comedic steam and is nicely balanced with the more conservatively nuanced Zavaglia.
Fine teamwork is at the root of Charlie and Dom's long-time attachment to each and is the pleasures they recall of their past rub-outs. Exposition plays a large part as does our unwittingly surrendered affection for the motor-mouthed Charlie and Dom.
Big Anthony, Jr.'s arrival, which is expected by one of the "boys" and unexpected by the other, puts them into survival mode: a concerted effort that has been well calculated by Lauria to insure plenty of uneasy laughs as well as many full out guffaws. There are also some chills in store for those who may not have a taste for blood and the macabre. When Charlie and Dominic also finding themselves welcoming mob accountant "The Uncle Sid" (Morris "Moe" Rosenbaum) and unseen others, it is time to put all their culinary skills to work.
Dom's preparation and serving of what they refer to as "the last supper," is not only comprised of such lip-smacking dishes as Cervello with onions, herbs in a lobster bisque sauce, scalloped potatoes, eggplant and broccoli-rob but are enhanced in somewhat the same way that made the pies sold by Sweeny Todd's Mrs. Lovett extra special. A nicely designed, but more importantly, well stocked kitchen designed by Jessica Parks is the setting for a play that is not only playfully preposterous but also purposely tasteless, save those presumably savory "brains."
"Thanks for sharing," says the terrific Zavaglia who gets many of the play's biggest laughs as he expertly slices and dices, mixes and stirs, sautés and simmers the ingredients for the last supper under the most trying of circumstances — those being the scarily comical intrusions by Abruzzo as a mood-swinging Big Anthony, Jr. and Rosenbaum as the eerily unctuous The Uncle Sid.
Dinner With The Boys , under the abetting direction of Frank Megna, is, despite its few grisly episodes and inherent crudities, a tasty morsel of comedy and crime. Regional theaters, in particular, are likely to have fun with this caper.
The show with same creative and technical team, but before being trimmed to 95 minutes, premiered at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, from 9/11/14 to 10/05/14.
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