Directed by John Gould Rubin
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
When Giovanni (David Proval) tells his attorney Sanford Weiss (David Deblinger), “I shouldn’t be here,” only he knows why that is true and the audience will not know until minutes before the end of Michael Ricigliano, Jr.’s beguiling thriller “A Queen for a Day” currently running at the Theatre at St. Clement’s in New York City. Mr. Ricigliano’s script is pure mob-inspired drama and – in a compelling way – examines the meaning of loyalty, family, and trust. The play also examines the limits of those phenomena: is there a tipping point where acceptance ends and non-acceptance begins?
That tipping point for Giovanni “Nino” Cinquimani’s Family Boss brother Pasquale (Vincent Pastore) is all about sexual status. Nino thinks he and his attorney have arranged to negotiate a proffer agreement with U.S. Attorney Patricia Cole (Portia) – a one day only immunity Queen for a Day deal. All Nino has to do is turn on his brother and all his own past transgressions will be forgiven – along with a new identity. Playwright Michael Ricigliano makes it clear from the start things are not going to work out in this deal: Nino does not feel the warehouse meeting spot is safe and he is missing Mass to mess with the government.
And Nino is quite right. Both he and his attorney have been duped by Pasquale who sets up the meeting to confirm a directive he gave Nino in the past regarding Nino’s lover Jimmy. To say more about that particular directive would require a spoiler alert; however, confirming his brother’s relationship to Jimmy and Nino’s sexual status is enough for Pasquale to do what he has to do to preserve organized crime’s cloaks of loyalty and trust.
Actor Portia is the perfect plant for the U.S. Attorney and skillfully sways between interrogator and confidant as her character slowly excoriates Nino. And the rest of the ensemble cast – David Deblinger, Vincent Pastore, and David Proval – make an easy transition from their former “The Sopranos” roles into their roles in “Queen for a Day.” All four actors deliver authentic and convincing performances of characters struggling with their commitments to self and family and try to enter the unfamiliar territory of forgiveness. Each manages to bring an honest dose of moral ambiguity to their characters giving them depth and richness.
“A Queen for a Day” is a powerful trope (here an extended metaphor) for all of the decisions that need to be made quickly. Life delivers a multitude of Proffers to humankind and it is the way women and men respond to those offers that defines character. The audience will need to decide whether Pasquale made the “right” choice or simply the expedient choice, the selfish choice, the survival choice.