(Costa Mesa, CA) April 7, 2012 – Family reunions are anything but predictable. They can either be heartwarming and tender like HALLMARK HALL OF FAME television specials, or they can be dysfunctional and destructive, like anything written by Tracey Letts and William Faulkner. But when it comes to Steven Drukman’s THE PRINCE OF ATLANTIS, the reunion is an empathetic portrayal of how members of a broken family come together at the most oddest of circumstances. This World Premiere at the South Coast Repertory proves to be a success while delving into family and self-discovery.
Seafood tycoon Joey Colletti, aka “The King of Atlantis” (John Kapelos) is not a happy camper. While serving a prison sentence for “mislabeling” some of his imports in order to bypass the tariff fines, Joey is notified that he has a child out of wedlock, a result from a drunken one night stand thirty years ago. At first, he is overjoyed that his son, Miles Overton (an eager, compassionate Brett Ryback), might be the possible heir that he has been looking for, much to the chagrin and envy of his girlfriend/fiancé Connie (a hilarious Nike Doukas, masterfully combining the nasal-like quality of Fran Drescher and the feistiness of Marisa Tomei from MY COUSIN VINNY), who desires to be the “Queen of Atlantis”. But Joey fears that once Miles discovers that his father is a convict (who only has nine months to go on his prison sentence), it will drive a wedge between the father/son bond Joey craves for. He then convinces his younger brother, Kevin (Mathew Arkin), to email Miles (under the guise of Joey), informing him of his success and riches, and to visit his mansion when “he returns from a trip in Vietnam.” By then, Joey will be out of prison and he could establish a paternal bond with his lost son. But when Miles arrives at the mansion unannounced, mistaking Kevin for Joey, a series of awkward events occur, resulting in an ending that is both unexpected and quaint.
It is not surprising that THE PRINCE OF ATLANTIS was the recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award. Drukman’s dialogue and characters jump off the page with their dimensionality and especially their “Lake talk” dialect, which is a mish-mash of Italian, English, Romany and street slang. Drukman captures the culture with this dialect perfectly without it being distracting. And Warner Shook’s tight direction of the 90 minute play (no intermission) is fluidic and never drags. If there was one thing that the play itself lacks, it would have been nice to see more interaction between Kevin and Miles, especially when the subject of Miles’s mother is brought up. The time invested regarding this mysterious woman was too quick. Ten additional minutes between these two lost characters would not only solidify their bond even more, but it would also establish a fifth character that is only mentioned, but never makes an appearance: Miles’s mother, whose role as the play’s catalyst is more significant than meets the eye.
As far as the acting is concerned, Doukas and Ryback are impressive as Connie and Miles. Kapelos is a joy as the alpha-male Joey, whose narcissism is evident throughout the nautical themed mansion set (courtesy of set designer Thomas Buderwitz). His benevolently boisterous and bossy nature hides an inner guilt of his treatment of Kevin, as well as his insecurity if his kid brother pursues his own life and future, leaving Joey all alone with his fish empire and his moody girlfriend. A nicely layered performance by Kapelos. However, Arkin is the true heart of the story. After being institutionalized for 25 years, Kevin is a man hanging at the end of his rope. And Arkin beautifully mixes anxiety-driven tension with fragile compassion. His scenes with Ryback are truly dynamic as both men try to know each other through old photos, love letters between Miles’s parents, and quiet thought-provoking dialogue that slowly peel layers away from both characters like onions. Their interaction (which, again, needs more stage time and dialogue) is the nucleus of this story, and that is reason enough to see THE PRINCE OF ATLANTIS.
The Prince of Atlantis opened April 6 and runs to April 29
South Coast Repertory
655 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92628-2197
Photos by: Photo by Henry DiRocco/SCR