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Breaking Legs

Tom Dulak's "Breaking Legs," which is funny but clumsily constructed and superficial, uses only one set and runs just two hours, including intermission; it's a natural for dinner theater. In the meantime, the play -- which ran Off Broadway for 447 perfs in the 1991-92 season -- is touring with an all-star cast.

Tom Dulak’s “Breaking Legs,” which is funny but clumsily constructed and superficial, uses only one set and runs just two hours, including intermission; it’s a natural for dinner theater. In the meantime, the play — which ran Off Broadway for 447 perfs in the 1991-92 season — is touring with an all-star cast.

Harry Guardino plays Lou Graziano, owner of an Italian restaurant in an unspecified New England town.

His daughter, Angie (Karen Valentine), brings home her old English teacher, Terence O’Keefe (Gary Sandy), who has written an experimental play and is looking for investors for a proposed Off Off Broadway production.

No problem: Lou has a couple of friends with a large amount of liquid capital , which they’re willing to gamble.

Moreover, Angie, well into her 30s and still unattached, has eyes for her old prof, while Lou is anxious to see his “baby” wed, if not out of his sight.

Lou and his friends seem to have wandered in from a production of “Guys and Dolls.”

They’re stereotypical comic Italian-American hoods, whose interests include horse racing, unsecured loans and the subject of O’Keefe’s play: murder.

Storch plays an associate of Lou, in arrears on a debt to Fransisco (Aiello). English professor O’Keefe, while also stereotyped, seems closer to the heart of playwright Dulak, himself an academic who’s written plays produced Off Broadway and (like O’Keefe) in Belgium.

This may be why the play’s strongest moments aren’t with the love story but with the developing relationship between O’Keefe and his new backers, who immediately start acting like producers, suggesting everything from a rewrite of the second act to a catchier title — like “Oklahoma!” (“The great plays all had great titles,” declares Aiello’s Fransisco. “Name one that didn’t.” To which Viverito’s character deadpans, “Grease.”).

The best scenes feature Aiello, Guardino and Viverito onstage together. Storch has little more than a cameo.

Aiello fits comfortably into a part that’s a burlesque of a character he’s been playing for years. He and Guardino overact — which is fine in this context — but Viverito all but walks away with the play with his stony-faced underplaying.

Sandy and Valentine show little chemistry as the romantic leads, though scene in which she’s aroused to near-climax by a foot massage is very funny.

And her Big Moment near the end, when she stands up to Guardino, Aiello and Viverito, commanded applause from the opening-night crowd.

Breaking Legs

Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts; 1,425 seats; $43 top

  • Production: Elliot Martin, Bud Yorkin, James & Maureen O'Sullivan Cushing present a comedy in two acts by Tom Dulak. Director, John Tillinger.
  • Crew: Set, James Noone; costumes, David C. Woolard; lights, Ken Billington. Opened, reviewed Oct. 5, 1993; runs through Oct. 10.
  • Cast: Lou Graziano - Harry Guardino<br> Angie - Karen Valentine<br> Terence O'Keefe - Gary Sandy<br> Mike Fransisco - Danny Aiello<br> Tino De Felice - Vince Viverito<br> Frankie Salvucci - Larry Storch<br>
  • Music By: