All That Chazz: Teller Outshines Tale In “Bronx”

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Chazz Palminteri tells a story like an old school Italian chef builds a lasagna … layer upon lovingly crafted layer.  Of course ingredients play a key role too, and in the case of “A Bronx Tale” it sometimes feels like a little store brand ricotta got slipped in.  It’s still plenty tasty, but not quite the classic you might have hoped for.

a-bronx-tale-006Chazz, however, is authentic to the core.  “A Bronx Tale” is a one man show that’s actually packed with a cast of memorable characters … all brought to life by this charismatic writer-performer.    With a set that consists of a stoop, a street lamp, and the exterior of a bar (please give it up for Chez Joey) Palminteri quickly establishes a Bronx neighborhood that’s instantly recognizable.  Then goes about telling an iconic coming of age tale.

The problem is, the turf is a little too familiar.  You’ve got the local made man, Sonny … his colorful bunch of wiseguy cohorts, Eddie Mush, JoJo The Whale, Frankie Coffee Cake … a hard working and selfless dad, Lorenzo … and the angelic love interest, Jane.  Chazz quickly morphs into his 9-year-old self, little Cologero sitting on the stoop, innocently watching the world swirl around him.  Until the day he witnesses a deadly bit of street justice that forces him to make choices that will affect the rest of his life.

a-bronx-tale-007Ever since “The Godfather” the twisted code of the mafia has become the fodder of many a morality tale.  The fact that it’s so embedded in our pop culture consciousness makes it difficult to see “A Bronx Tale” with fresh eyes.  Yes, this is Palminteri’s story, but if you haven’t heard the one about the impressionable kid who’s tempted by flash over substance you really ought to get out more.  Chazz does know how to weave in a nice Sixties vibe though, Dion and the Belmonts, JFK, the rise and fall of the Yankees.  There’s just no real surprises about where any of it is going.

All that being said, this is still a compelling piece of storytelling.  Palminteri is so expressive, and captivating from start to finish.  You are watching a master craftsman, capable of switching from street punk to street poet in a heartbeat.  It’s a rare gift, and well worth the price of admission to the Colonial Theater.

One of Palminteri’s main themes in “A Bronx Tale” is the tragedy of wasted talent … a message he received loud and clear from his father.  It’s one of the things that makes the triumph of his performance so memorable.

“A Bronx Tale” is at the Colonial through April 5.

http://www.broadwayacrossamerica.com/BOSTON

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