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Over 60…And Getting Younger: December 10, 2010

A Delicate Assignment

How can a loving father review a play written and produced by one of his children?

I gave myself this extremely arduous and demanding task after attending the opening performance of Clemenza and Tessio Are Dead at The Shell Theater at 300 West 43rd Street.

According to my son Gregg Greenberg, the playwright, it is a comedy-drama parody of the movie The Godfather. Two of the soldiers of the Don Corleone Mafia family are discussing their prospects in a world that is changing, and they are two dinosaurs of a past life.

The clash of the Don’s old world values and the new ways leave Clemenza and Tessio unsure of their futures. Will they be phased out or discarded or “bumped off,” to use their own vernacular?

Gregg has chosen to model these two men after the characters in Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He tells the entire complicated story through two almost unimportant characters. Tom Stoppard attempted this same method in a Broadway show called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Stoppard related the intricate drama of Hamlet through these characters who are briefly seen on stage. They follow Hamlet to Britain to check up on him.

Gregg pulled this idea off brilliantly! Of course, the viewer must have some little knowledge of the movie, but it is all well explained in the dialogue of the show.

There is rivalry and skullduggery between the two men, but there is also admiration and friendship. Gregg has added humor, and the lines crackle with wit, irony and native intelligence as the lead characters banter about what direction their lives will take.

The people referred to offstage come to life in the New York, Italian dialect. Their facial and hand movements are quite authentic. Gregg has cast the protagonists beautifully. Frank Senger (Clemenza) is the full-bodied and able director and one of the leads. He is ably supported by Anthony Gallo (Tessio), who handles comedy very well.

The bare stage with few props is more than enough for these two talented performers. The telephone scenes are hilarious, but the stark drama shines through.

I am Gregg’s father, but I loved it and enjoyed the play nonetheless. Tickets can be obtained at clemenzatessio.com. Performances end Dec. 19.