Woonsocket Call

‘Breaking Legs’ may smash your funnybone, too

Mobsters, theater combine for lively comedy at OST

- By KATHIE RALEIGH Special to The Call

WARWICK — “Break a leg” is how an actor wishes good luck to a peer. But if breaking one leg is good, breaking two must be better, so mobster Mike Francisco doesn’t mean anything bad when he says, “Break yo’ legs!”

That thought is behind “Breaking Legs,” the title of the hilarious Italian gangster comedy now in top-notch form at Ocean State Theatre.

Trinity Repertory Company’s comic master, Fred Sullivan Jr., has been imported to direct the mayhem, which he does with precision, while a fabulous cast of six keeps the laughs coming, from the small snicker to the belly laugh. This show is outrageous fun.

In a fashion similar to the way “Mama Mia!” strings together unrelated pop songs to tell a story, “Breaking Legs” strings together a batch of stereotype­s to tell its wacky saga.

The setting is an Italian restaurant “in New England,” according to the playbill, but we all understand, it’s Rhode Island. That’s where playwright Terence O’Keefe has come, at the suggestion of former student Angie Graziano, looking for investors for an off-off-Broadway production of his latest work.

Angie now is the well- paid manager of her father’s restaurant, but before she dropped out of college, she had shown promise in O’Keefe’s short- story writing class.

“She’s been pretty good with the books around here, too,” says her admiring dad, Lou Graziano.

Anyway, Angie has suggested her father and “uncles” Mike Francisco and Tino de Felice might bankroll the project. In fact, they offer more money than O’Keefe asked for; if they’re going to win, they want to win big! That unnerves O’Keefe a little.

Much fun is made of the investors’ lack of theater knowledge; Lou, for example, is more interested in the searchligh­ts, stretch limos and blonde bimbos he associates with an opening night. But O’Keefe comes to realize they do know something about the subject of his play — murder — and that unnerves him even more.

Between this fraught first meeting and a resolution, however, comes loads of laughs. There’s bickering among the wiseguys; a murderous confrontat­ion with a member of the “family,” who owes everyone money; and erotic encounters between the sexy Angie and the professor, who have had the hots for each other since classroom days.

Ethnic jokes come thick and fast, on everything from food – don’t dare to imply the calamari is greasy — to funerals, as well as the investors’ attempts to rewrite the play and find roles for their relatives. Ironically, there even is a power shift.

The material is very funny — and knowing. Playwright Tom Dulack is a professor at the University of Connecticu­t and clearly has absorbed local Italian lore. (UConn is where his O’Keefe character teaches.)

The cast, moreover, is flawless, with each actor creating individual personalit­ies for what could have been caricature roles. There’s the imperious don, Uncle Mike, played by Brandon Whitehead, who gives orders and swills Pepto-Bismol; taciturn Uncle Tino, played by a threat-exuding Chris Perrotti; and Cleo Zani as restaurate­ur Lou Graziano, the epitome of the protective Italian father. Mark S. Cartier does a lot with a small role as the unfortunat­e debtor, Frankie Salvucci.

Professor O’Keefe is chronicall­y nervous — about the “family,” their financing and his feelings for Angie, but Christophe­r Swan brings so much to his portrayal that he never gets repetitive. Sophia Blum is great as the volatile Angie, who can switch moods in a split second, as when O’Keefe dares ask where her family gets its money.

Costume designer Emily Tardash has created perfect outfits to go with each personalit­y, like Uncle Mike’s slightly tacky threepiece suit and Angie’s skin-tight dress and stilettos. More kudos go to Katryne Hecht’s Italian restaurant setting, with its red tablecloth­s, framed photos on woodpanele­d walls, and abundant bar. We’ve all eaten at a place like this.

You can’t see this show without laughing out loud, and like hearty Italian food, the laughs stay with you. You’ll still be smiling the next day. Don’t miss this opportunit­y to have some fun.

“Breaking Legs” continues through Feb. 14 at Ocean State Theatre, 1245 Jefferson Blvd. Tickets are $34, $44 and $49, with rush tickets, if available, sold one hour before curtain for $25. For reservatio­ns, visit the box office in the theater, call (401) 921-6800, or visit www.OceanState­Theatre.org.

 ??  ?? ABOVE: Christophe­r Swan as Terence. and Sophia Blum,as Angie, star in Tom Dulack's hilarious comedy, “Breaking Legs,” being presented at Ocean State Theatre in Warwick through Feb. 14. For tickets call (401) 921-6800 or visit www.OceanState­Theatre.org.
ABOVE: Christophe­r Swan as Terence. and Sophia Blum,as Angie, star in Tom Dulack's hilarious comedy, “Breaking Legs,” being presented at Ocean State Theatre in Warwick through Feb. 14. For tickets call (401) 921-6800 or visit www.OceanState­Theatre.org.
 ?? Mike Turek photos ?? LEFT: From left, Cleo Zani, as Lou; Chris Perrotti, as Tino; and Brandon Whitehead, as Mike.
Mike Turek photos LEFT: From left, Cleo Zani, as Lou; Chris Perrotti, as Tino; and Brandon Whitehead, as Mike.

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