Corleone: the Shakespearean Godfather mixes parody and homage in intriguing show
By David Mann. Directed by Mindy Parfitt. A Classic Chic production. At Pacific Theatre on Friday, February 3. Continues until February 25
“I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.”
It’s a line oft-repeated in David Mann’s Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather, lifted from The Godfather, and the promise and premise of Classic Chic’s all-women staging of Mann’s play seemed like an offer I couldn’t refuse either.
A script that plays with language and perceptions of highbrow and lowbrow art, skirting the line between parody and homage as a form of commentary? Intrigued. A theatre company challenging gendered “norms”, exploring power and toxic masculinity, and having fun subverting stereotypes? Sold!
What made it to the stage on opening night of Corleone was slightly different in ways both good and disappointing. Mann’s script is a tightly condensed adaptation of the much-worshipped tale of a Mafia family, machismo, betrayal, and vengeance. Vito Corleone’s status as the don is threatened when he’s almost killed in a power grab by another crime family. His youngest son, Michael, who had eschewed the family business, decides to avenge his father, which escalates to an all-out bloodbath as “baby don” ascends the very throne he’d sworn off years earlier.
Mann’s script has some well-crafted characters and some truly laugh-out-loud lines, but ultimately never quite rises to meet its own challenges. Classic Chic does a good job with what it has to work with, save for a few small missteps. At first, Nicola Lipman’s Vito Corleone isn’t sinister enough to be truly formidable, but as the don chastises Johnny Fontane for his whining, Lipman finds her groove. As Michael Corleone, Stefania Indelicato faces the biggest task, but her approach doesn’t always work.
Michael’s journey is rooted in volatility and familial obligation, a sense of duty, but Indelicato’s delivery is often flat, as if confusing a monotonous voice with an intense one.
Among Corleone’s standouts are Corina Akeson, also the sound designer, who shines as both Sonny Corleone and Johnny Fontane, and Christina Wells Campbell, Classic Chic’s artistic director, who earns every laugh she gets for her turn as Luca Brasi, the don’s well-meaning but dim, malapropism-inclined muscle. Kaitlin Williams is lively and vibrant in her small role as Kay, Michael’s put-upon love interest.
Classic Chic deserves better material than Corleone, but it’s an all-too-rare joy to see so many different women, from so many different demographics, occupying the stage together. Though it has its flaws, it’s still an offer I simply can’t refuse.