There’s a real treat awaiting theatre goers at The Ruskin Group Theatre. The latest production is a revival of John Patrick Shanley’s cockeyed romantic triangle involving two life-long friends, Aldo and Huey, both of whom are struggling with their manhood. Shanley’s work is no stranger to affairs of the heart having won an Academy Award for Moonstruck as well as multiple awards, including a Pulitzer, for his explosive play, Doubt. This revival of Italian American Reconciliation, which premiered at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1998, has no signs of aging as it deals with universal truths of this thing called love.
The action begins with Aldo, wonderfully played by John Collela, breaking the fourth wall and kibitzing with the audience. His friend Huey, given a comedic, but deeply emotional life by a most talented Andy Lauer, is a pathetic human being who has never fully recovered from his three-year-old divorce and fantasizes about reconciling with his wife, Janice, a rather crazy, hostile woman who shot Huey’s dog with a zip gun to get his attention. Amy Jacobson as Ruskin’s Janice, the wild and whacky, gun-toting wife, is just the right mix of belligerent New York Italian without ever becoming a cliché. Then there’s Teresa, Huey’s present girlfriend played by Cloe Kromwell, who is about to break up with Huey, but he beats her to it and breaks up with her first. Teresa is shocked and the tears flow. (Note to Cloe: If there are no real tears, then don’t fake crying.) So, this is how the triangle shapes up: Huey still loves Janice, Teresa loves Huey, and yes, Aldo secretly loves Teresa. (A flow chart would be helpful.)
Huey prevails upon his friend Aldo to visit Janice to pave the way for his visit at which time he plans to plead for a reconciliation. But, oh dear, despite the fact that Janice has been beating up Aldo since they were kids, while pointing her zip gun at him, she confesses that her physical attacks were designed to get his attention and so the love plot thickens. There are twists and turns and an unexpected resolution to this wonderful journey through complicated multiple relationships. Rounding out this excellent cast is Mary Margaret Lewis who plays a sympathetic Aunt May.
Rae Allen’s excellent direction kept the action moving and elicited fully realized characterizations from her highly professional ensemble. The simple set and light design served the play well as did the fun sound track featuring Dean Martin hits which underscored the action in a most entertaining way.
The Ruskin Group Theatre is a theatrical work in progress and has presented many plays. The current production has certainly hit the mark, undoubtedly due to the excellent casting of well-trained, seasoned actors who created believable characters living in a rather bizarre reality.
Ruskin Group Theatre
3000 Airport Road
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Run: Friday & Saturday thru Dec. 6