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DiLorio works his theatrical magic in a garage/bodyshop in Providence Rhode Island and where dispirited prodigal son Donald "Bone" (Christopher Daftsios) has returned to work on the restoration of the The Jag with his long embittered and virtually blind father Leo "Chick" Chicarella (Dan Grimaldi.)
A widower, "Chick's dream of having a family business were dashed years ago with the tragic death of Bone's brother whose artistry as a mechanic apparently didn't rub off on his less gifted sibling. A wheeler-dealer and burdened with a gambling debt, Bone has returned home determined to finally complete the restoration and sell the Jag that he originally purchased for the favored brother in partnership with his father.
Because of Bone's limited skills he hires a young woman mechanic Carla Car (Estelle Bajou.) Carla is severely lacking in social skills but she has an acute knowledge of Jags. Her entrance as she sees the Jag for the first time and caresses its "bonnet" is as close to a passionate love scene as we are likely to see in this play.
DiLorio's makes good use of coarse vernacular the kind that makes sparks fly between Chick and Bone. Their "figures of expression" are a constant puzzlement and source of humor for Carla. Tightly structured and intense, the interaction of the three characters is beautifully developed for us to see how three needy people learn to test drive their disparate disabilities and dysfunctional behavior under the same roof. What we see under that roof, and awesomely created by set designer Jessica Parks, is a detailed, fully functional, completely out-fitted body shop.
The three principals, under the fine direction of Brendan Burke, keep the dramatic stakes high. Grimaldi, who is probably best known for playing the twin gangster brother on the HBO series The Sopranos, pushes the rage and regrets pedal to the floor as the hard-drinking Chick ("I'm not an alcoholic, I'm a drunk) but reveals his ability to mellow his cantankerous nature in the light of Carla's handicapping naivete.
Ms. Bajou is giving one of the most poignantly exhilarating performances I've seen this year as the highly-strung but intensely-focused Carla. A highlight is seeing her reluctantly coming out of her comfort zone to jitterbug with Chick.
Although Bone is fueled by resentment, Daftios finds a path for us to make us his ally. A resolve with a nice twist in the relationships brings the play to a very satisfying conclusion.
In its world premiere engagement, The Jag marks an auspicious beginning to the New Jersey Repertory Company's 20th anniversary season. It's a good bet for a healthy life in regional theaters and beyond. The audience at the performance I attended was vocal in its approval and responded with prolonged applause at the curtain calls.
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The Jag by Gino DiLorio Directed by Brendan Burke
Cast: Estelle Bajou (Carla Carr), Christopher Daftsios (Donald "Bone" Chicarella), Dan Grimaldi (Leo "Chick" Chicarella)
Stage Manager: Craig M. Rosenthal
Scenic Design: Jessica Parks
Lighting Design; Jill Nagle
Sound Design: Merek Royce Press
Costume Design: Patricia E. Doherty
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes no intermission
New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, N.J.
Performances: Thursday, Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 3 pm & 8 pm; Sundays at 2 pm.
From 01/12/17 Opened 01/14/16 Ends 02/12/17 Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 01/16/17
NJ Theatre Alliance
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