Italian American Reconciliation Theatre Review - Passions Runneth Over at the Ruskin

Does being a good friend necessarily have to include risking life and limp, literally?

For Italian American Everyman Aldo (John Collela), absolutely. Reluctantly, but absolutely. In addition to being a generally nice guy and good son who hangs out at a local pizzeria, Aldo has been trying to keep tabs on his best bud, the utterly heartbroken Huey (Andy Lauer). The writer has never recovered from losing the love of his life, ex-wife Janice, and Huey wanted Aldo to help broker a beautiful reunion.

Andy Lauer and John Colella in "Italian American Reconciliation"

All Huey is asking is for Aldo to grease the rails with Janice before Huey makes his big pitch to get her back. Huey’s request would seem reasonable to the casual observer, until a few extraneous facts are illuminated. First, Huey is already in another relationship with waitress Teresa (Cloe Kronwell). Second, Janice (Amy Jacobson) owns a gun. Yes, a cap gun, but a gun nonetheless. She has been known to wield other weapons with frightening skill, such as unwanted bouquets of flowers and her unpredictable, hair-trigger rage.

Amy Jacobson iin "Italian American Reconciliation"

Janice is beautiful and unbalanced; and yes, Aldo agrees to get right in the middle of the mix. Their pre-encounter goes just as expected, and not at all as they expected. Janice seems to know exactly why Aldo has come, while Aldo seems to be losing himself to an entirely new reason for being there. As the night wears, the only question that remains is when Huey will finally interrupt, and how it will change what came before. Meanwhile, our friendly neighborhood pizzeria’s Aunt May (Mary Margaret Lewis) providing unabated, motherly commentary throughout the show’s interconnecting scenes.

I really enjoyed Italian American Reconciliation. The show was a weird hodgepodge of styles and moods and humor. The essential yet invisible skill of taut comic timing is a treat to behold in this production. Collela bookends the show with a delightful ‘character bit’ that turns out to be more than a bit of clever misdirection on the part of director Rae Allen. Aldo’s fourth-wall shattering, comic monologue recesses easily into this goofball world of over-serious characters, scheming to attain "the one". Collela and Lauer are well balanced as ridiculous romantic and voice of reason, tangoing awkwardly to different tunes. Collela and Jacobson are equally entertaining in their ironic exploration of a mischievous, twist, darkly romance that never came to be.

Cloe Kronwell & Mary Margaret Lewis in "Italian American Reconciliation"

The character revelations in John Patrick Shanley’s piece are thankfully messy or unpredictable; however, the execution of this story was certainly well crafted and felt quite genuine. Life is not neat; it’s messy. Sometimes things work out, or don’t work out… just because. And that’s OK.

Italian American Reconciliation runs through January 23, 2010 at:

Ruskin Group Theater Company
3000 Airport Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 397-3244

Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 2pm

Free parking at Theatre

Photos by Agnes Magyari

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