West of Brooklyn
July 12-28, 2002
Actor-writer-producer and his company’s “creative director,” Ronnie Marmo is on a mission. “With 68-cents left in my bank account, I was still convinced that you can make a living doing what you love,” he says in the program notes. And it’s exactly that kind of mythological gush that characterizes his fairy-tale ode to Brooklyn’s Italian-American expats in L.A.
It starts with a swash of self-pity by a young, dislocated, cuckolded and slightly morose poet, Sebi (Marmo). He’s one in a clan of orphans that includes his brother, Jimmy Boy (Jerry Ferrara), Jimmy’s sewer-mouthed childhood sweetheart (Angela Pupello), among other eccentrics — all struggling on the bewildering West Coast. (In an endearing touch when dining in a Japanese restaurant, Sebi tucks his hand wash cloth into his collar, then complains that it’s wet.)
Stumbling into Sebi’s life is a beautiful local heiress (Dana Daurey) — the daughter of an unnamed L.A. Times publisher, she bears a vague resemblance to Greta Garbo. Indeed, she’s not a character but a fantasy, on the bounce from the Peace Corps, who ne’er challenges Sebi through the entire play. What she’s doing by herself in a pizza parlor run on testosterone by Sebi’s foster Papo (the appealing Robert Costanzo) is anybody’s guess. But rest assured, boy will get girl, boy will lose girl, and so on — just as assuredly as Frank Sinatra accompanying every scene transition.
Marmo packs all this into 28 scenes, and director Danny Cistone’s ability to keep them crackling, with turn-on-a-dime set changes, is nothing short of miracu- lous. Similarly impressive is the general warmth that comes floating up through the combined efforts of Cistone’s charming ensemble.
Steven Leigh Morris