The Family, with book written by Arlene Violet and music and lyrics by Enrico Garzilli is a new work that is premiering at The Lederer Theater, which is the home of Trinity Repertory Co.
Patrick Lynch's scenic design and Marilyn Salvatore's costume design are instantly evocative of the late 1970's as The Family explores a slice of the mob culture that was so prominent here in Providence, RI. Violet's story is both specific to the Rhode Island experience but is based on the accessible theme of a son who disappoints his father.
Don Marco (Tom Gleadow) is a recent widower and the head of a crime family on FederAl Hill. The Feds are watching him constantly and his most trusted lieutenants are turning state's evidence. With betrayal his constant companion, he hopes that his son Renaldo (Colin Earyes), his only surviving immediate family, will be a partner in the family business.
Renaldo wants to live his own life. He has the beginnings of a career singing opera and is struggling with how to come out to his father as a gay man. Pietro (Naysh Fox), Renaldo's boyfriend of four years does not understand the pressures of being an heir apparent in an Italian-American organized crime family and inadvertently adds his own pressure on Renaldo.
Ms. Violet's book, at its core, is solid and she knows how to tell a story. Renaldo's sexual orientation and career choice are effective vehicles to relay the tension between a father and son who is coming of age.
Don Marco has relied on the adulation of the people who surround him to provide a sense of self that is missing. Ms. Violet has created interesting ways to explore Don Marco's anguish, anger and fear after the defection of his henchman Joe Barros (Mark Colozzi). Don Marco is distrustful of everyone in his life, to tragic results.
Enrico Garzilli has written a couple of compelling, well-rounded songs that give Act Two a stronger-than-expected start, including "An Eye For An Eye", "A Real Saint" and "Minnesota Fats". These numbers are written in a musical comedy style in a show that tries very, very, hard not to be a musical comedy. The contradiction makes the pace uneven and confuses the tone of the production.
Tom Gleadow, by sheer force of will, can sell the hell out of a song. Gleadow never wavers in conveying absolute belief in the material. It is a tremendous performance.
Colin Earyes also give a fine performance as Renaldo and shares good chemistry with Gleadow.
With its tragic and universal themes, The Family would play quite well as a straight drama. It could also play as a musical comedy, or even a situational comedy. As presented, The Family is all of them, at different times, with varying degrees of success. Under Peter Sampieri's direction, the musical often feels disorganized; without consistent tone.
The Family plays at Trinity Rep's Lederer Theater through July 2, 2011. Tickets can be purchased at the Trinity Rep Box office, which is located at 201 Washington St., Providence, RI, by phone at (401) 351-4242, or online at www.trinityrep.com.
Photo: Tom Gleadow (center) as mob boss Don Marco and the ensemble (back L-R) Jim Sloan, Naysh Fox, Jason Cabral, Joe Nicastro, Kyle Blanchette (front L-R) Amanda Ruggiero, Marissa Silva, Kim Kalunian, and Talia Triangolo
PHOTO CREDIT: John Tavares