note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Carl A. Rossi
Gorgonzola, an old-school magician … Donato Colucci
The Assistant, in his stage debut … David Skeist
Good people of Boston, you now have the power to turn a sleeper into a hit. I refer to Donato Colucci’s THE GREAT GORGONZOLA & HIS NEW ASSISTANT, which is playing at the Actors Workshop in their new Fort Point digs. I cannot see why this delightful bit of fluff shouldn’t become an established favorite alongside SHEAR MADNESS and BLUE MAN GROUP; all it needs is an audience.
Mr. Colucci, the founder of Boston’s Publick Theatre, has whipped up a tale about Gorgonzola, an aging Italian magician (played by himself) who attempts a comeback at a third-rate New York theatre on July 4, 1927. His bumbling Assistant half helps/half hinders him with the props and routines. Gorgonzola has sudden lapses, signaled by a blue spotlight, about his wife/former assistant who has mysteriously disappeared; the ending comes down to what is Truth and what is Illusion? THE GREAT GORGONZOLA is embellished with several dozen egg tricks (some of them, quite remarkable), culled from the pages of Mr. Colucci’s ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EGG MAGIC which can be purchased in the lobby. Children, of course, will be enchanted by THE GREAT GORGONZOLA with its eggs and its doves and its fireworks, but those who will take this show to their hearts are those who love theatre as theatre for Mr. Colucci has resurrected the vanished world of Vaudeville in all its glory and tackiness: here is an entertainment that can only exist on a stage in its immediacy, its love of stagecraft and, especially, in its interaction between performers and audience. Mr. Colucci, sporting a false nose that almost touches his chin, makes a dapper little gent in his top hat and tails, David Skeist’s pop-eyed Assistant is an amazing collection of elbows and kneecaps, and Babatunde has supplied the wonderfully hokey costumes.
There were only six of us in the audience on the night I attended; paradoxically, that near-empty house only added to the third-rate atmosphere that Gorgonzola performs in --- Mr. Colucci, unperturbed, worked our near-silence into his performance (Gorgonzola’s beaming smile flickered whenever his repartee provoked titters, not roars), which in turn pointed up the tragicomedy of the magician’s comeback. But atmosphere is one thing and box office, another; Mr. Colucci has supplied the GORGONZOLA; it is now up to audiences to make it GREAT.