'Faithful'

Awkwardly contrived but comically rewarding three-hander chronicles the misadventures of an overly emotional hitman, his intended female victim and her inept-to-the-max hubby. There are so many incredulities puncturing the dramatic throughline of Chazz Palminteri's "Faithful" that it's necessary to dismiss the plot in order to concentrate on the characterizations. Helmer Mikey Myers keeps the action moving fluidly through all the leaps in logic, allowing his capable cast to create viability out of the implausible.

Awkwardly contrived but comically rewarding three-hander chronicles the misadventures of an overly emotional hitman, his intended female victim and her inept-to-the-max hubby. There are so many incredulities puncturing the dramatic throughline of Chazz Palminteri’s “Faithful” that it’s necessary to dismiss the plot in order to concentrate on the characterizations. Helmer Mikey Myers keeps the action moving fluidly through all the leaps in logic, allowing his capable cast to create viability out of the implausible.

Set in a New York mansion in the early ’90s, the first act is taken up by a bizarre pas de deux between wiseguy assassin Tony (John Collela) and his upscale, tied-to-a-chair victim, Margaret (Reamy Hall, alternating with Shannon Malone). Palminteri utilizes the clunky device of requiring his contract killer to wait for a phone call signal from the woman’s husband before doing the deadly deed, allowing Tony and Margaret plenty of time to actually get to know one another.

Collela and Hall work the pair’s convoluted relationship to humorous effect, simply absorbing Palminteri’s arbitrary scenic bits. This includes a plethora of phone calls to and from Tony’s shrink, who seems to have problems of his own.

Collela exudes the proper swagger of a confident “professional” who can’t help but lecture his victim about the misdeeds that have gotten her into this predicament. Collela is impressive as Tony segues into various emotional mind shifts while slowly being manipulated by his not-so-helpless target.

During the early rounds of the killer/victim faceoff, Hall’s Margaret is understated to the point of inertia as her would-be killer struts about her fashionable abode (impressively wrought by Siegfried Ackermann and Ryan Wilson). To her credit, Hall imbues her character with ever-deepening levels of personality and ingenuity as Margaret begins to find her way through her dilemma.

The second act is mostly taken up with a regurgitation of a marriage gone bad when husband Jack (Jim Roof) returns home to inspect the lethal fruit of Tony’s contracted labor. Roof inhabits the persona of a small-minded bantam cock who feels that money is the only answer to life’s travails.

Written in 1992, “Faithful” (adapted into the 1996 pic starring Palminteri, Cher and Ryan O’Neal) exhibits none of the streetwise credibility the scripter displayed in his earlier stage work, “A Bronx Tale.” The members of the Ruskin Group are to be lauded for their efforts on its behalf.

Faithful

Ruskin Group Theater; 65 seats; $20 top

Production

A Ruskin Group Theater Company presentation of a play in two acts by Chazz Palminteri. Directed by Mikey Myers.

Creative

Sets, Siegfried Ackermann, Ryan Wilson; costumes, Myers; lighting, Kathi O'Donohue; stage manager, Patrick Kacou. Opened Sept. 26, 2008; reviewed Oct. 3; runs through Nov. 16. Running time: 1 HOUR, 50 MIN.

Cast

Tony - John Collela Margaret - Reamy Hall Jack - Jim Roof
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