BWW Review: Shooting Us to the Quick with Arje Shaw's NY Premiere of MOOLAH

BWW Review: Shooting Us to the Quick with Arje Shaw's NY Premiere of MOOLAHAs said in Arje's Shaw dramatic comedy Moolah, people are in constant change: from day to day and minute-to-minute, we gradually inch our way towards who and what we want to be. A sound enough philosophy - that is, until you factor in a transvestite right out of Bellevue who cuts hair by day and kills people by night, his cousin who cannot get enough money and a vengeful family that puts hits on their nearest and dearest. Being the person you wish to be is thwarted by trying to survive your family's attempt to kill you...if you only knew when they were coming. Shaw's Moolah is the perfect combination of everything that puts audience members in seats: the drama of an Italian family out to make a killing, the comedy of two cousins who couldn't be more different, and the excitement of not knowing who is going to live, who is going to die, and who will continue pining his life away in a Staten Island hair salon.

Presented by Jones Street Productions for its New York Premiere, Moolah comes to Roy Arias Stage II under the direction of Charles Messina for a limited sixteen-performance engagement. Moolah is not a one-dimensional comedy, but entertains with a rather dark plot ensconced in the predicament of its two main characters, Antny and Sonny. What starts out as a dramatic, vein-popping accusation against Antny for losing his cousin's money turns into a rather existential crisis as the two wait in Sonny's Staten Island hair salon for Carmine, Antny's father.

As he remains absent for a majority of the play, the two occupy their time with whatever they can come up, and in that time does each character really bring out who he is. The audience, all the while, remains intrigued by the twists of its plot, where levity is replaced by fear, and comedy by the stark reality of their situation. With impassioned and heated arguments, jolly times at the craps table (or rather, behind it) and the sudden fear of death and the unknown, Moolah really is an existential roller coaster disguised as a comedic, slightly absurd experience.

There is so much about this production that guarantees audiences will have a great time. Not only is the acting impressive, the plot unique and full of unseen twists and the emotions as powerful as the effect of hairspray on the ozone, Moolah is a perfect demonstration of what people can hide beneath the surface. With that comes discovered empathy towards the cross dressing Sonny who can't fathom another day working in his salon when he really just wants to "clip" people at night; we also appreciate how Antny is very at ease with the avarice in his heart, never faltering to admire his self all the while. What Sonny says that also serves as the beginning of my review is very true: people are perpetually changing, with hardly a fact to be found; although, in the midst of familial hits against the cousins and no one to trust but themselves (presumably), the question stands: how much of yourself are you ready to give in order to get a better life?

Moolah really is a great time posing as a little existential drama, a whole lot of comedy and the uncomfortable laughter issued from the audience as the plot travels from funny to slightly unnerving. There is really a lot of great stuff happening with this show, and although the plot may not appeal to everyone, the dynamics of the show is enough to keep any theatergoer happy. Not only is this production a wildly eclectic mix of things that would not necessarily go together (take a family of mobsters mixed with cross dressing hairstylists, for example), it's also a waiting game that brings two estranged cousins together as they wait for someone's inevitable demise. There are touching moments (like when Sonny tries to explain to the homophobic Antny how free he feels dressing as a woman), followed by screaming matches and then an impasse when the feared Carmine arrives at the salon door.

As was mentioned before, the acting really made this play riveting. Johnny Tammaro and Louis Gerard Politan really brought out the emotional importance of this play. There were times when Politan would get so aggravated and completely consumed by what his character was feeling, I'm sure the audience was taken back by his vigor. Not only that, his portrayal of the effeminate Sonny made him both troubled yet charming - a tough combination to pull off. Tammaro was wonderful in his portrayal of a man so pleased with who he is, all the while never sure if he will make it past tomorrow because of his debt. He's so genuine and so Italian, and it was so much fun watching his overreactions to everything that befalls him and his damaged ego. Both actors truly did a spectacular job bringing Antny and Sonny to life, no matter how ironic that statement is in the context of this play.

Credit must also be given to Aniello J. Callari as the Executive Producer, Joli Tribuzio as Assistant Director and Deidre Words as Production Stage Manager.

A dark comedy that will definitely have you laughing, Moolah is a mix of everything that really brings out the drama of a good show. The production began performances on April 5th, and will continue through April 29th at Roy Arias Stage II (located at 777 Eighth Avenue, between 47th and 48th Streets). Tickets are $18 for general seating and are currently on sale at ovationtix.com. There is also a cash bar within the theater.

Enjoy the show!

Photo Credit: Jeff Madoff



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