Pacific Theatre
Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather by David Mann

Dates and Venue February 3 - 25, 2017 at 8pm Wed - Sat (2pm matinees all Saturdays) | Pacific Theatre, 1440 W 12th Ave.

Director Mindy Parfitt Set Design Heidi Wilkinson Costume Design Chantal Short Lighting Design Jill White Sound Design Corina Akeson Choreography Andrea Loewen Fight Director Josh Reynolds Stage Manager Maria Zarrillo

Reviewer John Jane

Corleone is a one act play by David Mann that takes inspiration from two seemingly diverse sources: Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 film The Godfather and Shakespeare’s tragedies. Just to give the production an additional affectation – as if it needed one – it is presented through Classic Chic Productions. Which means that in this male dominated world of violence, betrayal and power, all the roles are played by women; not softer, gender-bending versions, but intransigent performances by women as male characters.

The Godfather, adapted from Mario Puzo's saga of a New York Mafia family, could be one of the most quoted, misquoted and lampooned movies of all time. The story is suspected by many to have obvious references to real life characters, though by and large, this mounting centres around Vito Corleone (the Godfather) and his youngest son, Michael. The younger Corleone initially rejects involvement in the family business. But in retribution for an assignation attempt on Vito, Michael kills a corrupt police captain, and disappears to Sicily while a turf war flares up back home. When his elder brother is ambushed by enemies, Michael returns home to be the new don, leading the family to a new era of prosperity – but not before ceding to his own moral descent.

The play begins with a wedding reception that starts before the audience even take their seats. Constanzia (Connie) Corleone, the youngest child and only daughter of Vito Corleone has married Carlo Rizzi. As the audience is invited to join the celebration, we start to realise the dialogue is expressed through iambic pentameter – what some theatre-goers might refer to as Shakespeare speak. The second thing we notice is that while the clothing is invocative of mid twentieth century, personal side arms consist of daggers, swords and pikes – not guns.

Mollifications to conventions of the Jacobean era actually make the show more intriguing. When the corrupt police captain McCluskey gets his comeuppance, it’s done through trickery, duped into drinking from a poisoned chalice. The fight between Sonny Corleone and his brother-in-law Carlo, though not particularly well staged, is much less brutal than we’ve been trained to expect from modern film-making.

Stefania Indelicato obviously doesn't resemble Al Pacino (who played Michael in the film), but her perfectly affected movement propitiates the subterfuge. However, perhaps because of her small stature, Nicola Lipman struggles somewhat as Vito and guilty of underplaying the role. Her take on the smaller role as the priest in the Baptism scene though, is sublimely tongue-in-cheek. Regular female roles unsurprisingly get short shrift. Nonetheless, Kaitlin Williams as Michael’s wife Kay and Evelyn Chew in dual roles of Connie and Appollonia do the best with what they’re given.

Set designer Heidi Wilkinson and scene painter Omanie Elias combine effectively in a simple, but versatile single set that comprise of opposing garden murals and a faux terrazzo floor. Corina Akeson’s sound contribution (she also plays Sonny and Johnny Fontaine) provide incidental strains of recorded music reminiscent of Nino Rota's original soundtrack.

Corleone is just slightly more homage than parody, with some actors treating the material with more deference than others. If you’re prepared to be duly attentive throughout the one and half hour run time, you’ll be amply rewarded.

© 2017 John Jane