DOWNTOWN URBAN ARTS FESTIVAL
GAY.PORN.MAFIA BY Joe Gulla
Review by Michael D’Antoni
Joe Gulla’s “Gay. Porn. Mafia” just ran at the Downtown Arts Theater Festival for a one night only performance. This one hour production of five short stories entitled “Gayfever”; “Fall & Rise”; “Reel Wood”; “Knock Off” & “Sleep with the Fish” deal with gay issues across a genre of common, and at times, very real New York situations.
“Gayfever” deals with a doctor / patient relationship whereby the patient is diagnosed with a rare allergy! He is diagnosed as being allergic to Gay people. The obvious reference here being homophobia.
“Fall & Rise” begins with the awakening of a Jewish women to a knock on her door at 6:30 in the morning by a gay priest (who may or may not have survived a parachute jump from a plane) but is so strung out on Ecstasy & Molly that he begins to verbally unload on this complete stranger (that he just barged in on) about how he is now questioning his sexuality as well as his life long commitment to God. The obvious reference here dealing with religion and sexuality.
“Reel Wood” tells the story of a gay couple who are forced to live in the basement of their newly purchased home due to the inconvenient fact that the one partner has rented the rest of the house out to a straight porn production company for some six weeks for a considerable amount of money. Hence, Gay people forced to live in a straight world does have its price.
“Knock Off” takes place in a Mob owned Soho art gallery and deals with the dirty little secrets that it holds which are soon to be uncovered by a new, seemingly clueless and not so innocent receptionist name Geraldine.
“Sleep with the Fish” tells of a story of two mob guys (gay mob guys that is) who while on the Staten Island Ferry just disposed of the dismembered body of another mob guy who was also gay (and not ashamed to outwardly show it which is why he was killed and dumped) all the while professing their individual love for each other! All big NO NO’s in the mob world!
Albeit at times the overall production has a few funny lines here and there, but it is most unfortunate that the writer goes for the quick and cheap laughs instead of delving into the more deep and perceptive themes that are afforded to him.
Every one of the short plays ends with a quick one line quip for a fast laugh and then lights go out instead of closing with depth that the individual theme deserved.
Moreover, the writer grapples with very overplayed shots at the Catholic Church by portraying a priest as gay. (Been there, saw that) It may have been funny the 1st time it was done years ago but not funny anymore. Especially today. The lines associated with this sub plot do however deservedly get the quick cheap laugh they go for. But, why go for the cheap quick laugh when there is a much bigger story to be told and unfortunately never even touched on.
Additionally, at one point in “Fall and Rise” the character of Frima (artfully played by Andrea Cordaro) asks the priest if he is gay? And the priest flippantly responds “I am a Catholic priest the odds are in my favor!” This is an obvious left handed and cheap attempt at Catholic bashing!
All the male actors play more than one role, sadly with little variety. As they are given the opportunity to show range but unfortunately fall short.
However in this hour long production there are two noteworthy mentions.
The character of Geraldine in ” Knock Off” is played by the adorable Emily Dinova. As soon as Ms. Dinova opens her mouth to utter her first lines she steals the audience with her refreshing (NOT) “Brooklyn-eeze” accent! A colloquialism and vernacular most welcomed in this show. Simply put, Dinova owned “Knock Off”! Dinova’s Geraldine is one of those performances where a supporting character can (and does) steal every scene they are in!
Then other noteworthy performance comes from the actress who plays the character of Frima in “Fall & Rise”. Ms. Cordaro has obviously done her homework as she nails the Sfardic / Spanish accent! Her monologues gracefully carry the entire vignette with ease and precision. She comfortably floats through them as if she were relating the very story to each of us individually on our living room couch. One is drawn to her personal account and deep perception but unfortunately we are often distracted by the actor who plays the gay priest. For as Ms. Cordaro tells of the account by which they met, the priest is off to the side pantomiming this “look at me too” physical stuff that, not only does not make any sense, it only distracts from what the audience wants to hear, and that is what Frima has to say on how and why they both are there!
But even with the mime distraction Ms. Cordaro delivers the message rather eloquently. She was in complete control and it showed.
Throughout the entire show the male cast all too often take on this persona of “I am gay look at me I’m acting” unfortunately foreboding the more effective and conscious approach of “I have something very important to say here and here it is and oh by the way if it matters I am gay!”
The latter would have closed the deal and sold the goods in all the story lines. But, Instead of developing what potentially is 5 very real and contemporary subject matters to their fullest extent the writer falls short by going for the quick cheap laugh which unfortunately does the overall production an injustice.
At curtain calls I realized that oddly enough, it was the straight women characters who prevailed and shined in this otherwise gay themed show.