So it came as some surprise when the play turned out to be a love story set in New York's Little Italy. That's not to say that the play is soft and romantic. Playwright John Patrick Shanley takes a barbed look at the nature of relationships and charts how conflicts between the sexes can be just as ferocious as any inter-gang battles.
Shanley has some previous when it comes to romantic comedies set in New York; he won an Academy award for Moonstruck. This play has a harder edge, although the soft centre is still a bit cloying.
The premise is an old one. Huey is going out with nice girl Teresa, but pines after his ex-wife, the temperamental Janice. Huey's best friend, Aldo, serves as narrator of the piece and the dramatic centre.
The link with mob movies is not so far-fetched. There is the same close male relationship between Aldo and Huey and the same constant complaints about the emasculating tendencies of women.
Shanley does have the tendency to over-egg the mix. Not content with musings on the nature of love and sex, the closeness of male friendships, he also adds a rather unwieldy discourse about parental relationships.
This is exemplified by some rather unnecessary schtick at the beginning where Aldo, like a third-rate nightclub entertainer, tells us that his mother is in the audience: supposedly this is to inform us that Aldo is a mother's boy - something we could have worked out for ourselves. And the Janice's revelations about her father almost sounded like an afterthought - something tagged on to make it more profound.
It was unnecessary because Shanley had written an entertaining enough piece about love and relationships. It might sound clichéd and lightweight but Shanley's play has just enough invention to keep you entertained. Ian O'Brien's pacy direction ensures that it's never boring and the cast works hard, particularly on their accents which, for once, actually do sound authentic. I found Roy Khalil's Aldo rather too full of nervous tics but Paul Agar is a sympathetic, love-lorn Huey and Angela Rauscher has just enough menace as the fearsome Janice.
- Maxwell Cooter (reviewed at the Finborough Theatre)