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Broadway Bound

Mob gets into show biz with Breaking Legs


This is just a suggestion, of course. But if you don't head for the Stage Coach Theatre this weekend, you will get rubbed out. Er ... I mean, you will rub out your last chance to see one of the funniest shows about gangsters since Born Yesterday.

As the final show in its 22nd season, Stage Coach is presenting Breaking Legs by Tom Dulack, a frothy look at what happens when Broadway meets the Mob.

Dulack, the author of Incommunicado about Idaho's Ezra Pound, and Diminished Capacity, spices up the fast-moving comedy with some autobiographical tidbits. The leading character, Terrence O'Keefe, played with muted and awkward charm by Rick Hoover, is an English professor who writes plays, just like the author. Dulack has had on and Off-Broadway productions and even one in Brussels, but there's one snag: his plays may be bankrolled by mobsters.

Director Larry Dennis, with inspired casting, maintains a brisk pace that never lags and keeps the humor building, as much with character development as with plentiful gags.

The tall and stunning Erin Van Engelen is the fiery Italian restaurant manager Angie Graziano, who once was a student of the professor, and still has a "thing" for him. Hoover paints the middle-aged O'Keefe as an unlikely object for a crush and stumbles along trying to ignore Angie's obvious flirting as he seeks to interest restaurant owner Lou Graziano in financing his play.

The dour-faced Rick Hunt as Graziano and his paisano partners August Pollio and G. Robert Fields begin to like the idea of being big Broadway producers, and you're off on a Godfather meets The Sopranos adventure. Even the introduction scene is hilarious. Iraqi reconstruction plans are simpler than ordering a meal with these guys.

Pollio is superb as gangster Mike Francisco. His dramatic, flashing eyes are framed by eyebrows that stand at attention, and even the diamond glittering in his ear flashes danger warnings. He is decisive, but a worrier (is the professor Catholic?). And his constant stomach ailments never keep him from ordering the fanciest Italian cuisine.

Fields is the quieter partner Tino De Delice, but he is always ready with the correct word and a carload of facial expressions that speak for him. He has the assurance of a "made guy" and he adds just the right amount of menace to the quirky situation. Hunt creates a more volatile character, especially when arguing with his beautiful but feisty daughter. Always aided by his incomparable dry, sarcastic line delivery, Hunt is great fun as the third in the unholy trio, as they picture themselves arriving in a limo at their play's opening night.

Van Engelen as Angie portrays this dynamic modern Italian woman to perfection. She knows what she wants and goes after it--(the it being the professor). She whirls her green gum around her fingers and presto--romance blooms. Her seductive behavior captures his attention and Hoover is a delight as he struggles against his attraction to her, his Broadway ambitions and his horror at being mixed up with gangsters.

Once the partners decide to finance the venture, they start to meddle with the play, its casting and even its title. Their arguments snap and nip at each other like angry pups and Breaking Legs becomes a laugh riot.

Kevin Labrum, who moves back into comedy after an impressive dramatic performance in Of Mice and Men at the Boise Little Theater, plays the doomed Frankie Salvucci who has gotten behind in his payments. To say Frankie is nervous would be a gross understatement. He not only shakes and jitters, his voice quavers through the octaves as he promises to make good on his debt. Even the snap of Angie's gum sets him vibrating.

The set, designed by Director Dennis, is adorned with appropriate posters and Laura Kerbs' original artwork (which is for sale), making a very classy back room of the restaurant. The costumes organized by Boise's "premiere" costumer Elizabeth Greeley, complement the play's tone with flair and humor.

Breaking Legs provides a punchy, flashy season finish for the Stage Coach challenge: "Dare to do it live!"

Breaking Legs by Tom Dulack, directed by Larry Dennis

Stage Coach Theatre, Hillcrest Shopping Mall, Orchard and Overland

7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 22; 8:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 23 & 24

$10 Friday and Saturdat, $8.50 Thursday

Reservations at 342-2000.