★★★☆☆ - Satisfying
“The Portugese Kid” by John Patrick Shanley, now playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre (LVLT), finds the Oscar (“Moonstruck”), and Tony and Pulitzer Prize (“Doubt”) winning playwright smack dab back into the romantic comedy genre.
Directed by Chris Davies, this production doesn’t try to be more than it is. And that’s a good thing. It’s a script meant to be for simple fun. You won’t find any big, important underlying message. Much like “Moonlight,” it’s a case of people being with the wrong partner, in the wrong marriage. In other words, don’t expect anything really new.
Dave Elliott plays Barry Dragonetti, a fifty-cent lawyer, representing the twice widowed and very wealthy Atalanta Lagana, played by Kim Glover. Add in the overbearing mother, Fausta Dragnonetti, given full life by Charlene Moskal, and the fireworks kick off immediately. The pace is vigorous, almost relentless, and the jokes land with solid punch.
And then something happened. Maybe second-night letdown—a case where the nervous energy of opening night has dissipated. The well-executed transitions of the first scene disappeared and never returned. They feel rushed, perhaps in an effort to keep up the pacing.
Elliott’s portrayal of Barry brings to mind the actor Jason Alexander, who played the role in the short Broadway run. And that may be Elliott’s downfall. He doesn’t manage to make the role his own. While the dialogue of the first scene provides non-stop neurotic fun, the rest of the script puts the character on a bit of a back burner and it’s tough to keep the steamroller going.
Glover is having a blast with this character. She’s full of fire and her timing is mostly spot on, particularly when she spars with Moskal. The two bring the beat back to the lines each time they share dialogue, there’s a give and take which is fun to watch.
The two supporting roles of Freddie Imbrossi (Britton Crumley) and Patty Dragonetti (Diana Martinez) are the youngsters who really want to be together. Martinez slips easily into and out of Spanish, she’s brazen and pulls off the stereotypical Puerto Rican bimbo. Crumley mostly pulls off the dumb gigolo, but punch lines miss the landing because transitions are rushed.
Ron Lindblom’s sets and Ginny Adams’ lights do justice to the locales. Details matter and, while some may seem unimportant, a misstep can yank the audience out of the suspension of disbelief. Simply because a lid is on a cup doesn’t mean it should be obviously (by sight and sound) empty. Plastic glasses may look good under stage lights but the clinking doesn’t ring true in a toast. The egregiousness of that is compounded when the hostess is a millionaire.
Costumes are well done until Freddie enters in a new suit, purchased for him by Atalanta. The plaid jacket and ill-fitting beige pants may have been intended to play on the ignorance of the character, but doesn’t fit the arc of the story. Freddie may not be the brightest mind, but he would certainly know designer wear and Atalanta would never allow it to happen.
In the end, the play is a nice detour of fun amongst the stress of preparing for the holiday season.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday - Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday through Dec 22
2 p.m. Saturday, Dec 14
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre-Mainstage, 3920 Schiff drive
Tickets: $22 / $25 (702-362-7996; www.lvlt.org)
Producer: Las Vegas Little Theatre; Director: Chris Davies; Set Design: Ron Lindblom; Lighting Design: Ginny Adams; Sound Design: James Zamora; Costume Design: Alma Latecia Johnson, Eriahna Renee Coward; Stage Manager: Cindy Lee Stock