×

Four Fathers

Like a lot of people, Tony Abatemarco is trying to sort out his relationship with his father. Unlike most, he has the talent and creativity to turn this painful process into a superbly entertaining and often moving one-man show.

Like a lot of people, Tony Abatemarco is trying to sort out his relationship with his father. Unlike most, he has the talent and creativity to turn this painful process into a superbly entertaining and often moving one-man show.

Abatemarco is a familiar figure in L.A. theater, as a performer and director. This is clearly his most personal project to date, and while it is small in scale — the show lasts 65 minutes — it is tightly packed with fascinating, telling detail.

The show isn’t so much a portrait of Abatemarco’s father, a successful small-business man in Brooklyn, as it is a portait of Tony’s relationship with his dad. In it, he digs up key memories from both his childhood and more recent years and either relates them or relives them on stage.

Abatemarco effortlessly transforms himself into a mischievous little boy as he describes the joy of sitting in the back seat of the family’s Lincoln Continental and feeling “bundled in love.” But there are far less pleasant memories as well, such as his mother’s death, and his attempt to receive some recognition from his father — admittedly, a lot to ask, since he had moved so far beyond his dad’s world.

This is familiar material in the best sense. Abatemarco’s experiences mirror those of many in the audience, and it is easy to relate to and empathize with him. At the same time, he tells this story in such a way that it never seems trite or cliched.

Abatemarco utilizes rap, prayer-like chanting and even soft-shoe dancing to tell his story. His often-beautiful writing manages to include mythological references without ever seeming haughty or academic.

He has chosen outstanding collaborators. Director Don Amendolia no doubt deserves much of the credit for the show’s superb pacing, and Ken Booth’s lighting and Nathan Birnbaum’s sound design add much to its effectiveness.

John Nava’s subtle set reflects both the architecture of ancient Greece and modern Brooklyn. It perfectly reflects Abatemarco’s piece, which finds the all-important intersection between the archetypal and the personal.

Four Fathers

(Tiffany Theatre, West Hollywood; 99 seats; $ 24 top)

  • Production: Susan Dietz and Lenny Beer, in association with Craig Strong and Randy Bennett, present a one-man show written and performed by Tony Abatemarco; director, Don Amendolia; producer, Susan Dietz, Lenny Beer.
  • Crew: Lighting, Ken Booth; sound design, Nathan Birnbaum. Opened June 5, 1993; reviewed June 10; runs through July 25.
  • Cast:
  • Music By: