Mambo Italiano

by "Buzzin" Lee Hartgrave on January 28, 2005

It was first a play, then a movie. In the closet – or come out of the closet.what are two good looking lovers to do, when their traditional Italian families are lurking around the corner. Every Italian boy should get married to a women and have grand children for the parents or they should live at home and let Momma cook for them. But these boys have other plans.



There is not any overt sex in the play – and very little kissing between the men. So – from that view point, this story will not annoy straight audiences. This is about Angelo who falls in love with his childhood buddy Nino — a strapping, tall good looking guy. Angelo leaves home to live with his buddy. Momma and Poppa don’t suspect anything – because Angelo and Gino are such good friends. The play is really more fun than the movie – which was also a hoot.

Angelo’s parents are on hi-speed. Their acting is really ramped up to the highest degree. They shout, they argue and shoot one-liners at their daughter and their little darling boy Angelo. Both have been eating much too much pasta. Papa must weigh in at 300 lbs. The play is in English with touches of broken Italian through-out. Angelo’s pal Nino is much more in the closet. From their flat window they mock gay revelers marching down the street. Angelo takes a dare from his sister and comes out to his Italian family. Oops. Wrong move. His family is horrified – they start to look for quick fixes to turn their boy into a real man again. They blame Nino. Nino’s mom blames Angelo – saying in so many words that her boy is “The Top” – so it is Angelo that corrupted him. Nino is infuriated that Angelo came out – and the gay marriage begins to head for what looks like a divorce.

Mambo is a clever look into how other cultures view gay men in love. And you know what – they view it the same as any other straight family would view their sons who tip toe thru the tulips with other boys. First there is the denial – then the search for a solution. There are a lot of “Laugh-Out-Loud” lines in this play. All the characters are endearing. There are some serious moments – but all in all you know that this is really a comedy which makes it all right to laugh at even the serious moments.

The outstanding cast are Christopher Maikish (Angelo), Tony Davis (Nino) – who has the hunk-a-hunk look right to the edge as he constantly fondles a basketball, Ana Bayat (Lina), Camilla Busnovetsky (Pina,) Cathy Fithian (Maria,) Richard Ryan (Gino) and Jessica Viola (Anna). The playwright is Canadian Steve Gallucio. This production was directed by George Maguire, who has directed many shows at NCTC. Maguire – has the vision to bring this play to life and make it seem real to all of us. The magic is that all the actors seem so natural. They are not just doing lines – they actually seem to be possessed by the story. It’s-a-good-enuf f or me. RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!! A recipient of the Lee Hartgrave FAME AWARD for ensemble acting. At the New Conservatory Theater.

SHOW + TELL

Next in the spotlight at NCTC is the comedy by Steve Murray (Opens Feb. 5). Here’s a tip to get you off you duff to see this show. Javier Galito-Cava is in the show. Sure, you remember him – he was stunning in “Breakfast with Scot”. Wanna see more? Go to www.javiergalitocava.com. NCTC is on a Latin roll. .Sir, could you sing me a “Saloon” song? Err, I mean Madame as in Pat Yankee – that Madame. Beginning on Jan 28 – Yankee, who has been called the queen of “Dixieland” will sing songs from the Barbary Coast Razz-ma-tazz days. This is the second show at the new Cabaret on market.Michael’s Octavia Lounge. One of the songs you know well – “Ten Cents a Dance” – You remember that don’t you? Hard to make a living though.

At the Orpheum Theater is the Award winning “Oklahoma”. Considered the best Broadway musical ever written – it will be here for only two weeks. If you don’t see it – you’ll be warbling “Why Oh Why did I Ever Leave Wyoming”.

At the Berkeley Rep is Bridge and Tunnel. In the Reps Roda heater is Fetes De La Nuit – a madcap romp of that includes Edith Piaf, Opera and Rap Music. See. There is something for everyone. You just have to know where to look. I’ll be there. I love quirky stuff. . The Magic Theater at Fort Mason who has so far had a phenomenal season is taking at swing with baseball. The play is called “The Sweetest Swing in Baseball.” Read all about it in the next Beyond Chrons weekend Pink Section. We have stopped the presses to get it in.

I’ve noticed that Comedies are really “hot” this season. And they don’t come any funnier that “Picasso At The Lapin Agile” – the Steve Martin Play is at the Hillbarn Theatre. Brilliant writing by Martin and a laugh-a-minute. You have this weekend only to see “Grease”. Come-on.put some pomade on yer hair.put on your High School Letter sweater and swing by the Orpheum Theater. They even let you dance on the stage at the beginning of the show. Loads of Fun.and Frankie Avalon too.

Let Lee know what on your stage. Send to buzztatler@aol.com. Heard anything funny? Send that too.





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Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave

Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave is a longtime theater critic in the San Francisco Bay Area. His reviews appear each Friday in Beyond Chron.

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