“Break A Leg” is a well-known (if rarely seriously used) phrase to encourage an actor before he or she goes on stage. Now, Warwick's Ocean State Theatre presents “Breaking Legs,” a highly farcical comedy combining the theater world and the mafia. Bill Gale went to see it anyway.
The production, directed by Trinity Rep's Fred Sullivan Jr., turns out to be an overdone, over silly piece that somehow manages to be pretty darn funny.
As absurd as the play is and with a production that is often too far over the top, “Breaking Legs” still manages to have you laughing at its goofball, obvious humor. It's one of those plays that succeeds in spite of itself.
Written by Tom Dulack, it is set in a New England city that certainly could be (and maybe ought to be) Providence, whether that was the author's intention or not. On a very workable set by Katryne Hecht that looks like a restaurant you'd like to visit, we meet character number one.
That's Lou Graziano who runs the place, along with a few other deals that are less obvious. Enter his daughter, Angie. She's a sleek black curly haired bombshell wearing a dress that's as short as it is tight.
The pair of them set the tone. He's a little guy, cagey as he is smart, one of those guys who's never read a book, but don't bet against him. Cleo Zani, a Capt Cod-based actor, does a swell job of putting all that over.
Providence-born New York-based actor Sophia Blum comes on like a whirlwind. She talks Row-d-land just right and skimmers around the stage in heels high enough to give her a nose-bleed. But, instead, she's very good and very watchable.
The pair is followed up by a college professor looking for money to producer his ever-so-intellectual play. Then we have the boys; big guys – and big-time mobsters -- who know nothin' about theater but can see themselves opening night in a limo with a “bimbo,” as they put it.
Finally, there's Frankie, a poor schnook who's failed to pay his debt to the Boys – and is gonna pay big time, for that.
The four actors Mark S. Carter, Chris Perotti, Christopher Swan and Brandon Whitehead all do a good job. They are directed to be way too high at the beginning. But in the end, when “Breaking Legs” slows down, when it manages to stop depending on high gear shouting, it becomes quite funny.
The mobster's finally check out the play's script and begin to think of themselves as theater people, playwright's no less. Even critics, if you can believe that. They posit that “act two needs work” and just maybe we should change the title to, you know, something classy.
The changeover turns “Breaking Legs” into a parody of both the theater and the mob world along with making it more likeable and still pretty funny. So, if you want a couple of hours of eventually good, goofy fun with a definitely Little Rhody background this Ocean State production, eventually, provides it.
“Breaking Legs” continues at the Ocean State Theater in Warwick through February 14th. Bill Gale reviews the performing arts for Rhode Island Public Radio.