The cast of The Portuguese Kid, written and directed
by John Patrick Shanley,
at New York City Center — Stage I.
(© Richard Termine)
By Eugene Paul
winner playwright/director John Patrick Shanley, happily still plying his
trades, has generated a new comedy for the now venerable Manhattan Theatre Club
guaranteed to stimulate the arteries even in these overstimulated times, lower,
louder, loucher than his usual coterie of characters, just what the doctor
ordered. In spite of hints at ancient literary pretensions, Shanley’s
territory is deepest TV Sitcom ten degrees grosser than you might find on the
tube, coarser, cruder, greedier. Sort of Sixteenth century French, wittily
designed for a certain milieu of today by magicians John Lee Beatty and William
Ivey Long, They nail these characters.
lawyer, faux fiftyish Barry Dragonetti (impossibly good Jason Alexander) immaculately
tailored in bright blue double breasted impress- the- hoi polloi garb, at
smiling faux ease in his genuine imitation ancient barrister office,
shysterity pouring out the pores, flirting-fencing with still overly gorgeous
Atalanta Lagana.(simply marvelous Sherie Rene Scott). They have known each
other a little too well for years. She would like him to represent her in the
sale of her house, acquired through a husband, it is presumed. Four percent
commission. Ha ha ha, Barry NEVER gets less than six percent. Ha ha ha. Four
percent. The negotiation-flirtation would go on, even as it gets heated, were
it not for Mama.
Mrs. Dragonetti (Mary Testa, who else?) keeps her eye – the evil one – on
everything. She knows what kind of girl – ha ha-- Atalanta is and Atalanta
knows she knows and what’s she gonna do about it, this is business. And Mama
knows what kind of business that is. Not with her boy. Which really doesn’t
seem to bother Atalanta at all because she knows what kind of boy Barry is and
besides, she has a toy boy of her own, Freddie Imbrossi (hilariously outrageous
Pico Alexander). As we discover in the next scene, her tastily-bad, that is -
styled bedroom, with Freddie devoutly humping Atalanta in the delicate looking
but damned sturdy bed. Of course, director Shanley exposes Freddie’s wiry abs
but keeps Freddie’s pajama bottoms on, and somehow, delightfully tousled
Atalanta is fully clothed, but who ever said this was a realistic show? Just
low fun and low games.
Patti Dragonetti (totally luscious Aimee Carrero) does not play as well as she
thinks she does but brains did not come with the package of gorgeousness her
twentysomething bod – those legs! – generously provides. She thinks she has her
Barry wound around her delightful little finger. Mama Dragonetti isn’t worried
in the least. Patty wants her name on the deed of their house. Berry all but
sneers at such dumbness. Then who’s gonna look out after me, I deserve to be
looked out for, she offers as deep thinking and proceeds to entwine herself
with Freddie, who has similar problems and knows when he catches Barry’s eye as
he’s kissing Patty that this might not be too smart.
isn’t. Especially since it’s in Atalanta’s superdivinely gardenlike patio
dining room where she’s gotten together a calculated softening up feast for
Barry. Patty is a nothing complication so she’s there. And maybe there’s an
ulterior motive in having Freddie there, too. But not Mama. Who crashes the
party anyway, of course. And of course, Barry is rolling up his sleeves in
order to teach Freddie a lesson. And you know how lessons turn out, don’t you .
Or is that part of the calculus..?
/director Shanley spritzes topical Trump trumpery to contemporize if not spruce
up the proceedings and darned if that doesn’t almost work. When Barry, in his
rage and hurt in the tug of war among the women pulling at him, blurts out he
voted for the man, the moment of palpable horror stings. He got them. Almost
immediately he denies he voted for the man. Are we always trying to have it
both ways? Better to stick with the laughs.
At City Center Stage 1, 131 West 55th Street. Tickets: $95-$112.50.
212-581-1212 1 hr, 40 min, Thru Dec 3