Warwick, RI — Ocean State Theatre takes a successful, uproarious ‘whack’ at Italian stereotypes and crime family tropes in their production of Tom Dulac’s “Breaking Legs,” about a frustrated playwright venturing too close to the extra-legal life in his search to fund his production.
During his introduction of the show on opening night Friday, Managing Producer Joel Kipper noted the play had been well received earlier in the week during previews, with big reactions and a lot of laughs. After one of the preview shows, he said, he overheard one person say, “I know these guys,” Kipper said.
Much of the play trades in the agonized temptation of professor turned playwright Terence, played by Christopher Swan, as he negotiates funding for his play, an exploration of the experience of murder, with an Italian restaurant owner, whom he slowly realizes is much more familiar with the subject than he guessed.
Terrence’s comic, anxious struggle between self-preservation and the lure of lavish funding for his pet project gets turned up a notch as he begins fending off the aggressive seduction of the restaurant owner’s daughter, Angie, a former student, played by Sophia Blum of Providence.
The play, peppered with adult language and content, particularly the prospect of adultery as the admittedly unhappily married Terrence resists the intense, direct and vicariously thrilling advances of Blum’s Angie, is packed with guilty pleasures.
Those pleasures include the benevolent portrayal of an ethnic Italian focus on food that’s likely to subliminally stimulate your appetite and a barrage of organized crime references presented against Terrence’s attempt to dismiss criminal activity occurring in front of him because it fits a stereotype he’s obligated to resist.
Brandon Whitehead’s Mike, the apparent boss of Angie’s extended, uncle-rich ‘family’, delivers a standout performance as a guy with the power of life and death striving, and nearly succeeding, to be a friendly, non-threatening presence. Whitehall’s surreal, creepy laugh-without-smiling performance perfectly underlines the fine line Terrence walks between a happy life and a violent end. Whitehall deserves credit for the effort it must take to literally keep a straight face —while laughing — throughout the play.
Rounding out the cast are Cleo Zani of Cape Cod as Angie’s father, Lou, Chris Perrotti of Lincoln as Tino and Mark S. Cartier of Bridgewater, MA, as Frankie.
At intermission, once audience member was incredulous that the laugh-filled first act was over so quickly. “That was an hour? Wow,” he said.
The theatre is located at 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI. Tickets,$34-$49, are on sale at the box office Monday through Friday from noon – 6 p.m., Saturdays from 12 noon – 4 p.m., and from 12 noon until curtain time on performance days, at www.OceanStateTheatre.org and via telephone during normal box office hours at (401) 921-6800.
This is a test