“Philosophy for Gangsters” at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row (Closed March 1, 2014)

February 10, 2014 | Off-Broadway | Tags:
Written and Directed by Liz Peak and Barry Peak
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Buried somewhere beneath tired (and tiring) humor – much of it in poor taste – lies a story Liz Peak and Barry Peak intended to be engaging as well as humorous. Unfortunately their well-intentioned plan falls mostly flat in the world premiere of their “Philosophy for Gangsters” currently running through March 1, 2014 at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row in Manhattan.

This story involves Mafia heir Callie Rizzoli’s (Courtney Romano) attempt to deconstruct the meaning of mob and redefine the meaning of crime in the twenty-first century. She enlists the help of kidnapped NJCU Professor of Philosophy Willie May (Tom White) who (obviously) becomes a love interest for her and a liability for the current Don of the Family Rizzoli (Bruno Iannone).

Despite heroic efforts on the part of the talented cast, the thin plot unravels and suffers from a plethora of less-than-interesting characters burdened with equally implausible and, quite frankly, boring problems. The Don wants to see the day when criminals won’t have to go to jail “just because they are guilty.” Callie affirms that she and other miscreants “have the right to do wrong.” Willie May is conscripted to write the definitive “Guerilla Manifesto.” And, to save her new beau Willie, Callie fakes his death in an explosion, Luther (Tally Sessions) removes all of Willie’s teeth to substantiate the professor’s demise, and Callie and Willie head off in the sunset to inhabit you-know-whose now vacant cave in Afghanistan. And so it goes.

Repetition, redundancy, blackouts too many to count, an overly long first act, and the dogged attempt to provide exposition through unnecessary three-minute scenes doom this dramatic effort to less than success.