Ricardo Cordero pulled a neat trick with The Tell-Tale Heart. He began by performing Edgar Allen Poe’s creepy classic story by himself, "mobster-style," meaning he performed it as Tony Soprano might -- with all the requisite hand gestures and Jersey/Italian inflections. Cordero was pretty good, too; he might make a very good monologist. But then a whole new play emerged; Ricardo Cordero becames Richard Bishoff, Broadway star with organized-crime connections.
This Bishoff has been performing The Tell-Tale Heart on Broadway for eighty-two weeks, to sold-out houses and much critical acclaim. As he finishes the show one Christmas Eve, he is mobbed by fans and press in his palatial dressing room overlooking the city. He must entertain their screams and questions, fielded by his agent. Eventually they are shooed away, though he keeps receiving gifts and messages from other megastars (David Letterman, Britney Spears). Bishoff is world-weary and wants only to drown himself in his glass of Chivas, but his nurse (Anna Roman) wants to marry him, and the former chairman of Enron wants the winnings Bishoff owes him from a poker game. Bishoff’s ex-girlfriend (Betsy Barrera) shows up, pregnant, and he is offered a chance at the one thing he wants -- a family, stability. But his understudy-cum-bodyguard (Elias Stimac) wants his Rolodex so he can pull some connections and bring in some extra money. Bishoff is mightily offended; as he is ranting at his understudy, causing the poor man to have a breakdown, Bishoff suffers a heart attack and dies. The understudy cackles -- now he can be "made," and take over the role.
It’s an intriguing concept; the mob has not yet infiltrated Broadway, in spite of the ratings of The Sopranos. But this play is not the right vehicle with which to introduce that concept. Despite brave performances from Cordero and Stimac, the rest of the acting was facile, and the script is too dependent on mob and Hollywood cliches -- and some terribly predictable jokes. The sets, costumes, and lighting were a little better, but not enough to pull the play out of its self-imposed one-dimensionality. Cordero would have done better to stick with performing The Tell-Tale Heart as Poe wrote it. Maybe next Halloween.
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Copyright 2002 Jenny Sandman