In most cases, the problem isn’t that the CIA or FBI aren’t capable of solving these crimes. The problem is that historically the material witness just seems to disappear, or in some cases the mob will find a way to influence these witnesses, who in turn conveniently forget key details or events. This being taken into consideration, the best chance of vindication or justice being served often comes from within. A “rat,” as they are known by their criminal counterparts, is a person within the organized crime community who, whether through force or indictment, is coerced by law enforcement to spill the beans on the illegal activities of their clan or family.
And so begins A Queen for a Day, the story of Giovanni “Nino” Cinquimani (David Proval), a mob underboss or “Captain,” whose family’s criminal activity is under the microscope of the law. Nino is an old-fashioned mobster, and it is easy to see that Nino is not a rat—nor does he have the ambition to become one. Well, that is until the U.S. State’s Attorney is holding over his head a number of indictments which will come raining down upon him if he doesn’t help them build their case. So begins Nino’s journey from a hard-nosed gangster to a washed up tell-all. As Nino, Proval gives a master class in acting. Nino is a complicated guy, and his wide range of emotions takes the audience on a wide-ranging journey. Hilarious at times, and menacing at others, Proval breathes life into a truly interesting and exciting anti-hero. One might say “protagonist,” but this is a mob story; there is no such thing as a protagonist.
With a topnotch cast, this play is a powerhouse story full of intense and poignant moments, full of commentary on the current social climate. Directed by John Gould Rubin, this play demonstrates the fall of old-fashioned ideas in the wake of a new age philosophy full of tolerance and acceptance.
If the casting of four powerhouse actors hadn’t been the case—including Proval’s The Soprano’s co-star Vincent Pastore–this play would not falter. Michael Ricigliano, Jr.’s writing is consistent and engaging, and the dialogue between the characters is so fluid and effortless that it feels like two real people having a conversation. Full of powerful social commentary, this is a dark, exciting, and at times violent story with a little bit of something for everybody.
The play takes place over the course of one evening, set in an abandoned warehouse deep in Brooklyn. Designed by Andreea Mincic, the warehouse lends to the theater an eerie isolation and stillness, and the concrete walls and floor of the warehouse seem all too familiar with illegal activity. Bobby Frederick Tilley’s costume design supports this notion, as the mobsters roam the stage in custom-fitted three piece suits taken straight from the past. This adds to the contrast of the washed up mobster versus the more contemporary demeanor of the District Attorney: either keep up with the times, or get swept away in the tide of change.
With an engaging cast, and a solid script behind them, this is a production full of value. Witty, fast-paced, and with a fair share of plot twists, A Queen for a Day puts loyalty under the magnifying glass and revitalizes the classic mob story for a contemporary audience.
A Queen for a Day (through July 26, 2015)
Jackson Leonard Productions
Theatre at St. Clements, 423 W. 46th Street
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.aqueenforadayplay.com
Running time: one hour and 30 minutes with no intermission