Review: Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather (Commedia Beauregard)

Rich Traub and Jovan King, Corleone, in Commedia Beauregard Theatre's "Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather", written by David Mann, directed by Christopher O. Kidder. (photo credit: Jennifer Marcias)        
       
Corleone:
  The Shakespearean Godfather

Written by David Mann  
Directed by Christopher O. Kidder 
at Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru July 8   |  tickets: $25   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     


     
       

Solid performances can’t overcome uneven writing and direction

     

Jovan King, Duke Faeger, Jerry Marzullo, Rich Traub and Philip S. Zimmermann, in Commedia Beauregard Theatre's "Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather", written by David Mann, directed by Christopher O. Kidder. (photo credit: Jennifer Marcias)

    
Commedia Beauregard presents
    
Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather

Review by K.D. Hopkins

First a disclaimer: I am one of the many who watched “The Godfather” in 1972 at The Evergreen Plaza Cinema. I read the book. I can recite lines from the book and the film like a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” lunatic. A spoof is difficult to pull off and I am not sure if that is what Commedia Beauregard is trying to do in this production. Corleone: A Shakespearean Godfather is a rather uneven albeit entertaining endeavor.

Abby Stark and Jeremy Cohn,  - Commedia Beauregard Theatre, Corleonein Commedia Beauregard Theatre's "Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather", written by David Mann, directed by Christopher O. Kidder. (photo credit: Jennifer Marcias)Shakespearean dialogue lends itself to farce when imitated well. The device worked really well for another Commedia Beauregard show – Bard Fiction (my review).  Perhaps it is the breakneck and surreal world of Quentin Tarantino that worked so well for a melding of the two styles. Star-crossed lovers, shylocks, murder, and jesters populate the characters of any Tarantino endeavor; an antiheroes journey if you will.

Mario Puzo’s novel does not possess much in the way of humor other than the tragicomic journey of Fredo (ah poor Fredo) who is the tragic Pagliacci of the crime family saga. Corleone attempts to blend more than one genre of theater under what would be a safe umbrella of iambic pentameter and soliloquy. The great cast labors heartily as members of the crime family and its rivals.

Jerome Marzullo plays against the Brando archetype in his portrayal of Vito Corleone. His Vito is more of a “Good Fellas” kind of don. The old world charm and restraint is barely present. It may have been funnier to go all out spoof, with the stuffed jowls in homage, rather than to depart from the classic characterization. Nathan Pease as Michael Corleone is closer to Hamlet than to the reluctant heir of a crime family. He actually resembles Al Pacino in stature and in how the lines are delivered. The soliloquy that he does at the end comes off as somber whether or not the intent. It would be a pretty good dramatic performance, but Corleone never really goes in a linear direction of comedy or tragedy.

There are some really funny performances that receive hearty laughs; I like Richard Traub in multiple roles as Bonasera, Clemenza, and Sollozzo – in addition to an unfortunate painter at the wedding of Connie and Carlo. Playwright David Mann takes some literary license with the character of Sollozzo and gave him a physical infirmity. Traub pulls it off with great panache and humor. (I would have liked to have seen more of his Clemenza, which is my favorite supporting character in the novel and the movies.)

Duke Faeger is rather funny as the not-so-bright Luca Brasi. His use of malapropisms is hilarious. Brasi’s character meets an unfortunate end, but not before giving his ‘dying gravity for the gracious insinuation’ to the wedding. It’s a perfect spoof, and one of the funnier moments in the film when actor Lenny Montana plays the role as if he has taken too many blows to the head. Faeger also plays multiple roles including the traitorous Barzini.

Abby Stark, Chris Lysy, and Phillip S. Zimmerman,  in Commedia Beauregard Theatre's "Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather", written by David Mann, directed by Christopher O. Kidder. (photo credit: Jennifer Marcias) Philip S. Zimmermann, Nathan Pease, Rich Traub and Chris Lysy, in Commedia Beauregard Theatre's "Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather", written by David Mann, directed by Christopher O. Kidder. (photo credit: Jennifer Marcias)
Jovan King, Duke Faeger, Jerry Marzullo, Rich Traub and Philip S. Zimmermann - in Commedia Beauregard Theatre's "Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather", written by David Mann, directed by Christopher O. Kidder. (photo credit: Jennifer Marcias) Duke Faeger and Rich Traub, in Commedia Beauregard Theatre's "Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather", written by David Mann, directed by Christopher O. Kidder. (photo credit: Jennifer Marcias)
Nathan Pease from Corleone in Commedia Beauregard Theatre's "Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather", written by David Mann, directed by Christopher O. Kidder. (photo credit: Jennifer Marcias) Jovan King and Chris Lysy, in Commedia Beauregard Theatre's "Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather", written by David Mann, directed by Christopher O. Kidder. (photo credit: Jennifer Marcias)

Philip Zimmermann goes whole hog in several roles including an amusing Tessio, done in Jimmy Stewart fashion rather than Abe Vigoda. It’s strange but so out of the box that it works. Zimmermann plays the delicate Fredo as more of a bon vivant rather than the unfortunate schmo always in the shadow of Santino and now Michael. It would be funnier if the script leaned more toward farce, with the other characters having the same comedic energy. I like Zimmerman’s characterization of Woltz, the perverted movie mogul, who gets equine justice. The exchange between him and Jovan King is really topnotch. Woltz calls Tom a plethora of Italian epithets. In the book, Tom Hagen responds that he is German-Irish; in the play Tom responds that he is Black-Irish and it is a great double-take because King is black.

Jovan King shows great range and good comedic chops as adopted brother Tom Hagen and the schmuck son in law Carlo. The visual irony works as Carlo is supposed to be Northern Italian with unusual blond good looks. The scene with Jovan and Christina Romano as a very pregnant Connie made me squirm as much as it did on the big screen. Jovan plays rage very well, but this is supposed to a comedy.

Duke Faeger and Jereome R. Marzullo,  - Commedia Bearegard, Corleonein Commedia Beauregard Theatre's "Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather", written by David Mann, directed by Christopher O. Kidder. (photo credit: Jennifer Marcias)Chris Lysy as Sonny is also a standout, pulling off seething rage and fight choreography like King. The scene at the toll way, where Sonny gets whacked, is played more for drama than comedy and, yes, that kind of scene can be played for laughs. It seemed gratuitous rather than over the top. Lysy also plays Moe Greene, who gets a really bad massage and a poke on the eye. Jeremy Cohn as Hollywood smoothie Johnny Fontaine supposedly based on Frank Sinatra, and very enjoyable. Cohn is funny AND has a great voice. (This show could use more musical distraction.)

Abby Stark and Christina Romano play all of the female roles in the show. As in the film, the women in Corleone are always shown as subservient and acquiescent to the male hierarchy. Romano, as Connie, could be a great spoof of the spoiled daughter of the Don. Abby Stark, as WASP Kay Adams, fades into the background literally. I don’t know if this is intentional, but Stark’s talent is wasted as background decoration. There is missed opportunity to spoof the contrast of ethnicity and old main line New England.

The performances are good but the writing and direction is clumsy and uneven. There is great potential in the idea and the writer and director would do well to look at the comic greats of satire and farce such as Carol Burnett, Milton Berle and – oh yeah – Shakespeare. After enjoying the wonderful Bard Fiction, I expected at least the same amount of inventiveness and humor. Instead the writing feels timid and held back rather than going full tilt.

As I said earlier, I am a full- fledged fan of The Godfather Parts I and II.  Part three is an unfortunate anomaly in the story line….but I digress. I have seen this story spoofed in Mad Magazine. Two genres can be mixed. Take a look at Good Fellas if dark comedy and operatic violence are to be mixed.

   
Rating: ★★
  
   

Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather continues through July 8th at Greenhouse Theater (map).  Tickets are $25, and are available by phone (773-404-7336) or online through Tix.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at CBTheatre.org(Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)

Jovan King and Christina Romano, Commedia Beauregard Theatre, Corleonein Commedia Beauregard Theatre's "Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather", written by David Mann, directed by Christopher O. Kidder. (photo credit: Jennifer Marcias)

Photos by Jennifer Marcias


     

artists

cast

Jerome R. Marzullo (Vito, Priest); Nathan Pease (Michael); Richard Traub (Bonasera, Sollozzo, others); Duke Faeger (Luca Brasi, Vitelli, Barzini, others), Philip Zimmermann (Fredo, Woltz, Tessio, McCluskey, Cuneo, others), Chris Lysy (Sonny, Moe Greene, others); Jovan King (Tom Hagen, Carlo, Tataglia, others); Abby Stark (Kay, others); Christina Romano (Connie, Lucy, Apollonia, others); Jeremy Cohn (Johnny Fontane, others)

behind the scenes

Christopher O. Kidder (director, production design); Celia Forrest (asst. director); Nikki Marquardt (stage manager, projections); Jacqueline Davies (dramaturg); David Mann (playwright, graphics); Zach Livingston (fight choreography); Nathan Pease (fight captain); Lindsay Schmeling (costumes); Josh Zagoren (props); Jeremy Cohn (melody composition); Philip Zimmerman (language coach); Jennifer Marcias (photos)

Jerome Marzullo, Jovan King, Nathan Pease and Abby Stark, in Commedia Beauregard Theatre's "Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather", written by David Mann, directed by Christopher O. Kidder. (photo credit: Jennifer Marcias)

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