Dinner With The Boys
Reviewed by Nicholas Linnehan
What happens when The Sopranos meet The Odd Couple? It’s anyone’s guess. And there you have the premise with Dan Lauria’s dark comedy Dinner With the Boys. Two exiled hit men play house as they “cook up” plans for their futures. Unfortunately, the need for this story is not fully realized and the play suffers from a wayward, lackadaisical feel that limits its effectiveness. The antics get tedious and we want the plot to move on to something else. Sadly, it doesn’t and we grow a bit bored as it feels like a hamster spinning in its wheel instead of taking us on a journey.
Charlie and Dom have been banished to a quaint abode in New Jersey after botching up an assigned hit. We find out that Dom is quite the cook. But what makes his food so special is the main ingredient; the remains of their latest victims (think meat pies a la Sweeney Todd). As they eat their enemies away, an ominous visit from the “boss”, Big Anthony Jr, looms in the air. When Anthony arrives, he orders Charlie to kill his partner-in-crime, Don. When Charlie refuses, the meek chef, Dom, poisons Big Anthony Jr. and saves the duo from destruction.
The second act, picks up here, where much like the first act, an ominous visit throws a monkey wrench into things and murder is again afoot. The problem lies herein; both acts are constructed similarly and parallel each other too much. As a result we lose interest and focus as the act progresses. The most interesting quality, I don’t think is intended. There is a underlying sexual tension between the two men, We are never quite sure if the two are in love or just friends. Watching the actors wrestle with this was poignant, but it seemed as if they were unsure themselves of the extent that these two characters are involved. If sexual confusion and blurred lines were intended, its there, but it need further support and clarity.
Yet, it is not all doomsday here either. Richard Zavaglia plays the flamboyant, Dom, with such exuberance and genuineness that he is a delight to watch. Zavaglia delivers many of the plays funniest moments because he is so invested in his character. When his murderous side is exposed, we see the many layers of pain that Dom feels from being treated like an outcast from the more macho men. Dan Lauria, best known for his portrayal of the Dad on The Wonder Years, is fine as Charlie. He has some great moments on stage, but his confusion over his feelings for Dom read like an actor being uncomfortable, rather than a character trying to figure out who he is. Ray Abruzzo plays Big Anthony Jr. as your typical everyday mob boss. Abruzzo seems stuck on one note for much of his performance, and although that note gets the job done, I couldn’t help but wish for more from him.
The Set, designed by Jessica Parks is exquisite. Her attention to detail shines through and serves the play well. I hope playwright, Lauria will continue to develop Dinner With the Boys. Hopefully, he will search for his own desire to tell this story and convey that in the script. Where do you want to take us? Right now, I’m not so sure.
Dinner With The Boys plays at the Acorn Theater, Theater Row 410 W 42nd St. http://dinnerwiththeboysplay.com