The $25,000 Pyramid

By Nick Vigorito, Jr.
Directed by Morgan Doninger
Midtown International Theatre Festival/Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex Stage II
Non-union production (closed)
Review by John Chatterton

Tony (Damian Vanore), the hard-working "good" brother, is suspicious to have a visit (after a year's absence) from his "bad" brother, Joey (Anthony Vitrano). The reason the affable but not-too-bright Joey has for visiting Tony is usually money, and today is no exception -- Joey owes a lot of money to a loanshark, Pinkie (Tim Cinnante), and if he doesn't pay now he could end up dead.

Today happens to be the day Tony hosts a party with his buddies from group therapy (a prospect Joey finds bizarre but interesting), a once-a-week game of The $25,000 Pyramid. By a coincidence -- a couple of which play crucial roles in the dénouement -- the father of one of Tony's buddies, Mike (Michael Bullrich), is the loanshark's boss. All ends happily after Mike makes a phone call to get Joey off the hook, and Joey makes a lucky bet (for the first time in his life).

The role of coincidence in this play makes for unsatisfying dramaturgy, but Vigorito nevertheless provides a satisfying platform for some amusing characters, particularly Joey (though Vitrano's stiff movements and singsong delivery doubly underscored his character's limited intellectual grasp). That the play took nearly two hours to work out its destiny suggests a need for some cutting and compression, because there's not a lot of meat on the bones (or bones to put meat on). The chief source of comedy is the culture shock when Joey meets Tony's buddies, who are actually interested in Joey's world, much to Tony's horror. No doubt there are ways to increase this dramatic payoff by revisiting the script. What this play needs, if it's to be a comedy about the collision of two worlds, is more comic complications.

Vanore, as Tony, showed solid movement skills, particularly with his Tai Chi. Pete Mele, as Tony's other buddy, Angelo, was affably interested in Joey, if a bit naive himself. Bullrich portrayed Mike as a civilized man who happens to be streetsmart and have a father in the Mob. Cinnante, as Pinkie, didn't come across as particularly threatening in his first appearance, maybe because he moved around too much, so it was hard to get a real payoff when he relented and let Joey off the hook.

The uncredited costumes subtly expressed Joey's grunginess and the other younger men's casual hipness. Pinkie's black-suit and red-blazer outfits made an amusing contrast. The uncredited lighting design (which Doninger's blocking called attention to) made the upstage areas darker than they should have been, because of the ineluctable geometry of the tiny theatre. The set consisted mostly of folding chairs and a card table, which worked fine to suggest a couch and a desk.

Vigorito is an entertaining writer (his play Cirrius, Nebraska was in last year's MITF). All he needs is technique.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 John Chatterton