You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Ninth and Joanie

The Labyrinth's take-no-prisoners performance style is made to order for the seething hostilities in "Ninth and Joanie," Brett C. Leonard's bleak drama about the disintegration of a family living in a rough neighborhood of South Philly in the 1980s.

Isabella - Rosal Colon
Rocco - Kevin Corrigan
Michael - Dominic Fumusa
Charlie - Bob Glaudini
Carlito - Samuel Mercedes

The Labyrinth’s take-no-prisoners performance style is made to order for the seething hostilities in “Ninth and Joanie,” Brett C. Leonard’s bleak drama about the disintegration of a family living in a rough neighborhood of South Philly in the 1980s. Applying those house techniques, actor Bob Glaudini and other company stalwarts attack their tormented characters with sadistic relish. But the Pinteresque mannerisms of Mark Wing-Davey’s labored direction are a drag on the fierce domestic battle raging between a brutal father and his two sons, suggesting that Pinter pauses are best left to Pinter plays.

An air of defeat hangs heavy on this gloomy household, made palpable by the dingy lighting (by Bradley King) that throws shadows on the drab walls and lumpy furnishings of David Meyer’s set. This is the kind of home where the sun has to fight its way through greasy windowpanes.

Dreary as it may be, people do live in this cheerless place. Charlie, the tyrannical patriarch played by Glaudini, returns home from burying his wife and sinks into his armchair without a word to Rocco, his brain-damaged younger son played by Kevin Corrigan. They will shortly be joined by Charlie’s elder son, Michael (Dominic Fumusa), and eventually by Michael’s wife, Isabella (Rosal Colon), and his young son, Carlito (Samuel Mercedes).

That just about covers the comings-and-goings in this action-free drama — apart from the violent death that closes the first act.

In the absence of action, what drives the play are the undercurrents of rage that flare up among father and sons like hot bolts of white lightning. Leonard (“The Long Red Road”) drops enough clues from the family’s violent history (which includes one accidental death, one deliberate murder and a shocking suicide) to explain the origins of this bitter hatred. But even without the explanations, the hatred itself fuels the play.

Companies like Steppenwolf (and companies that would like to be Steppenwolf) might find this difficult material an interesting challenge. But the true value of this show is the opportunity it offers to study up close the Labyrinth’s life-and-death performance style.

Glaudini, a playwright (“Jack Goes Boating”), director (“Cowboy Mouth”) and company thesp since 2004, has so few lines he could tattoo them on his body without feeling much pain. But the fierce concentration he brings to Charlie’s silent rage makes the character a truly terrifying monster.

In the dangerous role of Michael, Fumusa (“Nurse Jackie”) crashes into the narrative with blood in his eye and leaves it in splinters. Kevin Corrigan (“Lobby Hero”) has the toughest job as Rocco, who burns with a slow fuse until the moment his brother lights him up. It’s a seamless performance and almost too painful to watch — which is a compliment.

Just imagine how these perfs would play without all the killing pauses.

Popular on Variety

Ninth and Joanie

Bank Street Theater; 91 seats; $35 top

Production: A Labyrinth Theater Company presentation of a play in two acts by Brett C. Leonard. Directed by Mark Wing-Davey.

Creative: Set, David Meyer; costumes, Mimi O'Donnell; lighting, Bradley King; sound, David Bullard; production stage manager, Rosie Cruz. Opened April 18, 2012. Reviewed April 15. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: Isabella - Rosal Colon
Rocco - Kevin Corrigan
Michael - Dominic Fumusa
Charlie - Bob Glaudini
Carlito - Samuel Mercedes

More Legit

  • Jonathan Groff

    Listen: Jonathan Groff Knows He's a Spitter

    If you’ve seen “Little Shop of Horrors” — the starry revival headlined by Jonathan Groff in a small Off Broadway theater — you probably noticed that Groff spits a lot when he speaks onstage. He’ll be the first to tell you that he’s been a spitter as long as he can remember, but “Little Shop” [...]

  • Key Largo

    L.A. Theater Review: Andy Garcia in 'Key Largo'

    Would “Casablanca” make a good play? Guess what: It was first produced on stage as “Everybody Comes to Rick’s.” How about “Key Largo,” the black-and-white Bogie-and-Bacall vehicle in which a handful of misfits find themselves trapped in a South Florida hotel while a hurricane rages outside? In fact, the 1948 John Huston film was adapted [...]

  • Sophia Anne Caruso and Alex Brightman'Beetlejuice'

    How 'Beetlejuice: The Musical' Became a Broadway Turnaround Story

    Christopher Kuczewski is what you’d call a Netherling. It’s a reference to the netherworld inhabitants who populate “Beetlejuice: The Musical,” the off-beat adaptation of the 1988 hit film that’s becoming an unlikely Broadway turnaround story. And that designation, which has been given to superfans of the show, goes a long way towards explaining how a [...]

  • Lena Waithe'The Inheritance' Broadway play opening,

    Lena Waithe, Anderson Cooper Attend Broadway Opening of 'The Inheritance'

    “The Inheritance” pulls viewers in many directions — toward pain and hope, trauma and healing. It’s what brought stars like Andy Cohen, Anderson Cooper, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick and Lena Waithe to Broadway on Sunday — a chance to heal, to remember and grieve. Also in attendance for the premiere at the Barrymore Theater [...]

  • Touching the Void review

    West End Review: 'Touching the Void'

    It shouldn’t work. Attempting to make effective theatre out of scaling a mountain, facing disaster thousands of feet up in the freezing cold and enduring a drawn-out facedown with death is surely a preposterous idea. Yet that is exactly what playwright David Grieg and director Tom Morris and his ideally meshed creative team have done. [...]

  • Hangmen review play

    Martin McDonagh’s 'Hangmen' Coming to Broadway in 2020

    Martin McDonagh’s “Hangmen” will debut on Broadway this spring, the latest in a line of West End transfers to the Great White Way this year. The play, which focuses on the second-best executioner in Britain dealing with his government’s decision to abolish his favorite form of doing away with prisoners, will begin performances on Feb. [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    Broadway Review: 'The Inheritance'

    The real hero of “The Inheritance,” Matthew Lopez’s thoughtful, moving and painfully funny play, is E.M. Forster, the celebrated English author of “Howards End,” “A Room with a View,” “A Passage to India,” and “Maurice,” that last a gay-themed novel published after his death in 1970. It’s quite the literary thrill to find the great [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content