note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Beverly Creasey
For years now we've been saying that the best theater in Boston isn't in Boston. It's in church basements and out-of-the-way hole-in-the-wall venues like the Abbott Memorial Theatre in Waltham. Well, I'm happy to report that someone has been paying attention. Every performance of "Breaking Legs" by The Hovey Players is sold out through the end of the run. And for good reason: John MacKenzie's raucous production of Tom Dulack's al dente comedy is delicious, right down to the real anti pasto they serve on stage.
The green room at Hovey is directly adjacent to the stage, so when Uncle Tio orders escarole suppe, we smell garlic and we see the steam rising from his dish. Hovey is such a small space that you see calimari when someone orders calimari ... and small is the key to this production. "Breaking Legs" played on Broadway with Vincent Gardenia and Karen Valentine, but the intimacy was missing. At Hovey the play works like gangbusters, you should pardon the expression.
"Breaking Legs" mixes the restaurant biz, show biz and gangster biz for outrageous laughs when a professor tries to interest some shady characters in backing his play. Throw in the gorgeous --- and demanding --- daughter of one of the good fellas and POW! They don't call 'em HITmen for nothing
Even the playbill is a hit, masquerading as a menu, with the silliest bio's this reviewer has ever read: Bob Allen, for instance (who is sensational as the deadpan Uncle Tio) it says in his bio "is never alfredo new rolls." Hey, what's not to love? The restaurant set (listed under "desserts"!) by Michelle Boll and MacKenzie reeks of Italian "art" from Etruscan fresco to the tomato-red swinging door to the marble column stage right --- and the authentic Rococo grillework on the window. Photos of beloved sons and daughters of Italy adorn the walls: Frankie, Ezio, Connie, Dino. I swear I saw tomato stains on the bar.
Jason Myatt is hilarious as the droll professor who gets in way over his head, and then starts to enjoy it. Teresa Gooding does the impossible: she manages to make controlling behavior downright sexy, and makes a footrub so erotic you'll want one as soon as you get home. Kent Miller makes her long suffering father actually enjoy being dominated, which is all the funnier. Rocco Sperazzo steals the show as a though-talking, baseball wielding Uncle Mike who is never "hungry" but can eat six courses on an upset stomach. David Clasby is their hapless victim, the poor shlub who didn't pay up and is summarily dispatched "to a better place."
Annamarie DaSilva's lighting bathes the restaurant in a rosy, warm glow as inviting as those tantalizing aromas coming from the kitchen. Norma McGrath and Genevieve McCulloch's costumes (especially for Ms. Goding) are entertaining all by themselves. Each ensemble has a signature leopard touch from her petite leopard purse to the lining for her coat. Phillip Anderson's musical choices (like Rosemary Cloony's "Mambo Italiano") are the frosting on the cake. You'll leave the theater chuckling all the way to your nearest pizzeria because you'll be dying for some Italian cuisine.