This classic mafia crime story with a twist is playing at the Theatre at St. Clements on 423 W. 46th St, New York.
Set in an abandoned warehouse in New Jersey, Michael Ricigliano Jr.’s new play, Queen for a Day, is a story about organized crime, family, loyalty, and love. The play follows mafia member Giovanni “Nino” Cinquimani (David Proval) as he agrees to meet with prosecutor Patricia Cole (Portia) for a “queen for the day” or proffer agreement under the guidance of his lawyer, Sanford Weiss (David Deblinger). By signing this agreement, Nino can confess anything and everything with immunity from the law. However, Patricia Cole needs him to rat out his own brother, made man and mob boss Pasquale Cinquimani (Vincent Pastore).
Personal connection is found in this story, as it grapples with several universal themes, allowing the play to distinguish itself from other, clichéd mafia/Italian-American stories. Nino finds internal conflict with his will to survive and his loyalties to his brother, to his family/co-workers, and to his integrity. He also struggles with what “family” really means and how his childhood memories and experiences shaped the course of his life. The inclusive, “family” idea of the mafia is also challenged in this play by exposing the bigoted nature of this organization.
The production itself is very simplistic and lets the story speak for itself. The set consists of several walls representative of the warehouse, with a white door on a black downstage right wall. A large, grimy paned window is set on the upstage left wall and is softly lit from behind. The set’s color palate consists of varying shades of fading grays, blacks, and whites. The lighting is also as simplistic, sparse, and very realistic. The natural lighting shifts slightly as the play progresses, with false sunlight setting through an unseen window, communicating the passage of time as Patricia interrogates Nino.
The small ensemble cast of Queen for a Day was strong and solid. Portia’s Patricia Cole was powerful, in command, and a formidable force on stage. She had an extremely clear voice and it demanded your attention. David Deblinger’s Sanford Weiss was very entertaining and fleshed out. Watching David Proval and Vincent Pastore work together was extremely exciting as an audience member. They both played off of each other well and embodied gangsters expertly.
Overall, Queen for a Day was a solid production. Ricigliano Jr.’s writing was very tight and well done, and while it felt drawn-out and predictable at times, his plot twists were surprising while still being realistic to the world and plot he created. It’s definitely a production worth seeing, regardless of whether or not you’re a Sopranos fan.
Photos Credit: Russ Rowland