He's Still Palminteri From the Bronx

A Bronx Tale:

Throughout A Bronx Tale, protagonist Cologio (or C., as he's later called) is reminded "the saddest thing in life is wasted talent." You can't help but wonder if this was actually a phrase intended for the star of the one-man show, Chazz Palminteri, as he certaintly doesn't waste any of his. It takes a talented actor to successfully embody a number of characters without making them into caricatures. Palminteri is that kind of actor.

A Bronx Tale is based around a shooting Palminteri actually witnessed when he was younger. He then created a story about the neighborhood, blending in elements from his own childhood growing up in the Bronx. Set in the '60s during a time when Joe DiMaggio couldn't live up to the awe inspired by successful mob bosses, A Bronx Tale follows nine-year-old Cologio and the impact his involvement with local organized crime boss Sonny has on him over eight years.

Palminteri first introduces the characters and lays it down like it is, giving the whole lowdown on the Bronx neighborhood. He then ceases to exist as Chazz Palminteri, the actor. Each character comes to life as Palminteri effortlessly switches in and out between them, with the flick of a few fingers or the addition of an extra fluid Italian accent signaling the change. He becomes invisible after a certain point.

Palminteri manages to create a whole Bronx neighborhood, centered around the E. 187th Street and Belmont Ave corner, and then fade into the background as he lets his body tell the story. Even the three set buildings on stage multiply with the combined imaginations of Palminteri and the viewers. The limited scenery transforms into a whole street of people, places and things, and the interiors of buildings become visible without opening their doors.

The play is humorous in an understated, not looking for laughs, way. Palminteri draws humor from the quirks of friends and family. Mannerisms are mocked, Italian traditions lovingly made laughable, and insider dating tips (watch for the "Mariel test" and the "Sonny test") are offered with such confidence that they couldn't help but draw laughs from the crowd.

However, the play is far from focused on garnering laughs. The strongest scenes are those rooted in deeper issues, as Cologio struggles to find the balance between right and wrong, good and bad. The moral dilemmas, combined with a coming of age story set in a gang-run neighborhood, make the play equally as moving as it is entertaining.

A Bronx Tale runs through March 8th at Warner Theatre. Tickets run from $30-50 and available through Live Nation and Ticketmaster.

Warner Theatre
1299 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C.

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