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April 16, 2009

A REVIEW No Conventional Story

Roy Meachum

Chazz Palminteri had 'em rolling in the aisles Tuesday. The Hippodrome Theatre brought his "Bronx Tale" to Baltimore. To say the one-man show was an opening night smash would be understatement of the most egregious sort.


Right up there, sharing honors with the writer/star must be Director Jerry Zaks. For his directorial genius, Mr. Zaks can line up four Tony Awards. Somewhere in the realm of cyber land, there might be someone who doesn't know that what Oscars are for movies, Tonys are for theatre – and maybe more so.


I don't remember writing about any director who has taken home so many. In stage terms, all by himself, Mr. Palminteri furnished a fascinating show, but with Director Zaks shaping the production, trust me it's a major hit that rolls in laughter (until your sides ache) and winds up producing a tear from a theatre veteran friend. As all else in life, the show depends on timing. The star is a past-master at the art, who needs only an artful nudge here and there. That's where Director Zaks comes shining through.


Otherwise, Chazz Palminteri owns the evening and the audience. Otherwise, whatever comes to your mind about a one-man show really does not apply to the current goings-on at the Hippodrome. The author/star generates before your very eyes – as the saying goes – a veritable number of characters from his Bronx youth; somebody counted 18. I was too caught up in what was happening-before my very eyes.


Readers should be alerted: Some material is downright salacious, meaning dirty, and xxx-words flow freely during the evening. But, hey, it's a "Bronx Tale" and the streets of any city – even Frederick – attract garbage mouths. The material titillated opening night's audience. Put another way: Nobody stalked out in a fit of hyper-righteousness.


Mr. Palminteri packs all his stories and his numerous characters out of Baltimore a week from Sunday. "Bronx Tale" runs for about an hour and 40 minutes, which means no intermission. This makes sense; any break would mean losing touch with a New York City neighborhood that contributed a sizable donation to the 20th century definition of crime and the Mafia. You'll enjoy.


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