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A Queen for a Day

Michael Ricigliano, Jr.’s world premiere play takes the classic mob story in a new direction which is riveting, graphic, and full of social commentary.

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Portia and David Proval in a scene from “A Queen for a Day” (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

Portia and David Proval in a scene from “A Queen for a Day” (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

Ryan Mikita, Critic

In New York City, organized crime is rooted in much of the city’s history. Though it has existed for centuries and in many different countries, the “mafia” or mob became especially prominent in the 20th century in large part thanks to prohibition. In modern times, the mob in NYC is synonymous with mysterious disappearances, links to bribery and blackmail, and most prominently corruption. The biggest problem with all of this is the mob’s famed elusiveness. Sworn to secrecy, the members of these organizations live within a tight-lipped network where “giving up” a business associate or partner in crime is a promise taken quite literally to the grave. This last fact is one that members of the CIA, FBI, and District Attorney’s Office know all too well.

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.

David Proval and Vincent Pastore in a scene from “A Queen for a Day” (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

David Proval and Vincent Pastore in a scene from “A Queen for a Day” (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

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

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