For fans of mob humor, Faithful, written by Chazz Palminteri three years before the wildly successful television series The Sopranos, is a delightful black comedy about domestic betrayal and redemption currently in revival at the Ruskin Group Theatre.
Crisply directed by Mikey Myers, who keeps the action moving at a brisk pace, the story revolves around three characters. The first is a hit man named Tony, a multi-textured character who ranges from cold-hearted contract killer to a tender guy cut off from his feelings who consults with an emotional therapist named Joe-Joe to help sort things out. John Collela gives an outstanding, layered performance as this conflicted killer.
The second character is Margaret, whose husband has put out the contract on her. This tormented character, who actually had decided to commit suicide until faced with being murdered, is played beautifully by Reamy Hall, who dives deep inside this woman to extract the nuances and subtleties of her psyche.
Lastly is Jack, the dastardly husband who wants his wife dead so he can run off with his young assistant named, yes, Debbie. Played with a wide range of humor and perfect comic timing by Jim Roof, Jack is in for a few surprises along the way, as the hit doesn’t go off according to plan for any of the characters, all of whom get caught in the mostly comedic web of deceit, betrayal, unexpected attraction, and unexpected multiple turnings of the proverbial tables. Roof’s performance at the beginning of Act II, which has more twists than a salted pretzel, is worth the price of admission alone.
There are some delightfully funny moments throughout the play, such as when Margaret tries to seduce Tony from her tied-up position, sans makeup or coiffed hair, by asking questions about his sex life. “Have you ever been faithful?” Tony replies, “I was faithful for two years – not counting blow jobs.” Trying to pry out his tender side, Margaret asks, “Do you like to cuddle after sex?” Tony wastes no time in answering, “By the time a woman wants to cuddle, I got my key in the car door.”
The opening night audience was quite enthusiastic, as evidenced by the laughter throughout the play as well as a wonderful ovation. This certainly is a fun, entertaining evening and one where you will leave the theatre with a big smile on your face.
It is interesting to note the similarities of some of the characters which emerged in The Sopranos, such as the name Tony and the ever-present shrink. One could almost say Palminteri was way ahead of the curve.
Ruskin Theatre Group
3000 Airport Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Faithful runs Friday – Sunday through
November 16. Tickets: $20
$15 (Students & Seniors)