By: Paulanne Simmons
Sublimely ridiculous, Philosophy for Gangsters tells the story of a group of mobsters who come to the conclusion they are the victims of determinist philosophy, capture a professor of philosophy and try to start a revolution by massacring select individuals.
Written and directed by Liz Peak and Barry Peak, the show features Courtney Romano as Callie Rizzoli, the orphaned Mafia heiress; Tom White as Willie May, the befuddled professor; Bruno Iannone as Callieʼs uncle, the Don; and David Demato and Tally Sessions as Callieʼs cohorts, Eddie and Luther.
Although these actors are called upon to play stock characters, they do so with great energy and humor. Their perfect timing and adeptness at physical comedy keep the laughs coming steadily.
Callie has an MBA and a lot of moxie, but she is not without her feminine weaknesses. Somehow she sees a passion in Willie he does not see in himself. As for Willie, after becoming the unwilling spokesman for the renegade group, he begins to wonder about
his former sedate life. But by now, a rival street gang is after Callie and her lieutenants because they have killed a drug trafficker named X-Dogg (the spot-on Kyle Robert Carter). And the Don, tired of all the trouble he believes Willie is stirring up, wants poor Willie executed.
Will love triumph? Does crime pay? Only after various tantalizing and hilarious twists and turns does Philosophy for Gangsters answer these questions.
The drama alternates with news videos of man-in-the-street reactions to the criminalsʼ exploits. These vignettes are at the same time satiric and perfectly realistic. As a result they are painfully funny.
Except for one video of the insides of the drug dealer who is suspected of swallowing the goods, the play does not exceed the bounds of good taste – at least not if you have a fairly broad definition of good taste. Philosophy for Gangsters manages to insult a variety of ethnic groups, professionals and public officials, spreading its net wide enough, to make it non-discriminatory.
This is a farce that takes no prisoners. Organized crime, street gangs, philosophers, the media are all treated with equal ruthlessness. Blood and carnage abound. You could die laughing.
Philosophy for Gangsters at Theatre Rowsʼs Beckett Theatre, 410 West 42 Street, until March 1, 2014.
Photography: Carol Rosegg