by Raphael Badagliacca
Who doesn’t want a bigger kitchen these days? Given the choice, who wouldn’t prefer to eat outside (al fresco) in the nice weather as Dom (Richard Zavaglia) and Charlie (Dan Lauria – who also wrote the play) do for one more cunning, hilarious meal in “Dinner with the Boys” — a play that, like its protagonists, has survived to live large under the lights on 42nd Street, just off Broadway. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll go see it tonight.
Living large means a bigger stage. A bigger stage means a bigger kitchen where all of the drama takes place. It also means room for a table in the garden where Dom and Charlie can savor, with heartfelt humor, forks and knives in hand, everything that has brought them to this point in their lives.
“Savor” is the word. This was my second helping of this show. Like a favorite dish, heroically served first by NJ Repertory Company in Long Branch, NJ – a theater with a reputation for introducing plays that go places – last night’s performance did more than remind me why “Dinner with the Boys” is worth savoring.
The larger stage added a new dimension that went beyond words. It gave Ray Abruzzo as Big Anthony the physical space to match the repartee of the conversation with acrobatics that brought the house down. The musical ingredient produced comic operatic moments.
Director Frank Megna, a harsh critic of his own work, talked about the challenges of maintaining a sense of intimacy in the larger venue, something which his directing, the manner of the actors, and the vividness of the stories they tell clearly achieved. As I noted last time, the reality off-stage characters assume, who live only in the words of the actors, is a testament to everyone’s excellence.
As Dom, the indomitable cook, will tell you to succeed, you need the right recipe. I can’t do better than repeat from my earlier review, this show’s recipe for success: Take three parts excellent actor (Richard Zavaglia, Ray Abruzzo, and Dan Lauria himself), take one mob theme in which we have all been so well-schooled, take at least a dozen dishes so deliciously described that we can almost taste them, mix in laughs liberally, add wit as sharp as a kitchen knife, sprinkle with musical language refrains (you’ll see what I mean), spice it all up, add a twist, and another twist, and… you have a raucous comedy that makes a serious point about senseless violence and the value of kindness.
You have to see it once, to see why it’s worth seeing twice.
Just like last time, all of this has made me very hungry.
Complete previous review.
Dinner with the Boys – Written by Dan Lauria, Directed by Frank Megna
WITH: Dan Lauria (Charlie), Richard Zavaglia (Dom), Ray Abruzzo (Big Anthony)
Scenic design by Jessica Parks; lighting design by Jill Nagle; sound design by Matt Kraus; costume design by Patricia E. Dougherty; stage manager, Jennifer Tardibuono; technical director, Brian Snyder; assistant stage manager, Nate Fessler; props master, Andrew Diaz, marketing, Leanne Schanzer Promotions; marketing, WMedia Group; production supervisor, Production Core; general management, DR Theatrical Management; producer, Pat Flicker Addiss; associate producer, Olympus Theatricals, LLC.
DINNER WITH THE BOYS will perform at Acorn Theatre at Theater Row (410 W. 42 St.) in New York City Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesdays 2pm and 8pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays 2pm and 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $75 ($95 for premium seating) and can be purchased by calling Telecharge 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250 or online at www.telecharge.com.