A BROOKLYN LOVE STORY – FUHGEDDABOUDIT!
Originally produced as Emergency Used Candles for NYC’s Emerging Artists Theatre One Woman Standing Festival and then followed by a run at the famed Cherry Lane Theatre Off-Broadway, the newly titled A Brooklyn Love Story is making its L. A. premiere at Theatre 68. For those of you who might have the slightest inclination to see this one woman show I offer one word of caution…don’t.
Written and performed by Chiara Montalto, the 60-minute monologue proves beyond a reasonable doubt that not all stories are worth telling. After the unexpected death of her grandmother, Chiara moves into the Bensonhurst, Brooklyn apartment of her maternal grandfather “Pops” to look after him. What could have been a life-enriching, heartwarming tale of cross-generational familial love filled with the sharing of wisdom and laden with truthful explorations of the human condition, ends up merely a vapid, empty exercise that packs zero emotional wallop.
In the program notes, Ms. Montalto states that she would leave Pops a legal pad so he could jot down his thoughts and they could discuss them when she got home. To that end, set designer Danny Cistone, has created a swirling cyclone of paper wafting up from the floor next to Pop’s recliner to the heavens. It’s a successful interpretation of what the viewers hope will be an evening filled with lofty ideas. Unfortunately Pops and Ms. Montalto do not have much to say and the only thing that soars are the blank pages.
Here’s what we learn. Pops is dead at 92. Chiara cared for him for 10 years. She cooked for him, even making meatballs despite her vegetarian misgivings about squishing raw flesh. Every Wednesday he took her to the neighborhood Vegas Diner so she could have a night off from cooking. Pops had a box of “emergency used candles” in case of a blackout. He was old and had arthritic hands and trouble standing up. He used to be 6 feet tall but now he walks with a cane in a shrunken stooper. He wants his final arrangements to be made by Prospero’s Funeral home and his burial suit is in the closet. They really, really, really love each other. End of story.
Exacerbating the lack of content is the fact that Ms. Montalto is not a particularly gifted mimic. Clad totally in black (t-shirt, slacks and socks sans shoes) she shuffles around the stage portraying herself, Pops and a few other incidental characters including a waitress and a Guido boyfriend. She has herself down pat but when it comes to playing the other parts they are amateurish renditions that sound remarkably alike. Her “Pops” is particularly lame. Picture a 4th-grader impersonating an old person and you pretty much have an accurate picture of what she’s serving up here.
Director Ronnie Marmo keeps her moving around the stage, often disappearing behind a black partition only to emerge bent over with a cane as if she has been magically transformed into a 92-year-old man. And then she speaks and the illusion is crushed. The action creeps along until Pop’s foretold passing finally arrives. The moment is accompanied by an overly sentimental orchestral piece that reeks of teary-eyed manipulation. The only part of me that was moved was my butt getting up and happily exiting the theater.
photos by Matt Richter
A Brooklyn Love Story
Theatre 68 in Hollywood
scheduled to end on October 6, 2012
for tickets, call (323) 960-5068 or visit http://www.plays411.com/brooklyn