Friday, April 1, 2016

Why Can’t You Stay Dead?—Chianti Club Productions—SE Portland

Our Gang

This interactive, original, dinner-theatre, comedy-musical is created and written by Lou Pallotta and directed Melinda Leuthold (Creative Consultant, Stan Foote).  It is playing at the Tony Starlight’s Showroom, 1125 SE Madison, through Saturday and then again, May 5, 6 & 7 and 19, 20 & 21.  For more information, go to their site at or call 800-966-8865.

This a sequel to the play, Who Stole My Dead Husband?, which ran for about six years in the early 2000’s, with some of the same cast members.  It is inspired by the author’s experiences growing up in an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY.  The songs and music are from the 40’s & 50’s and include such favorites as “Mack, the Knife,” “Downtown Strutter’s Ball,” “Pennies from Heaven,” “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” “Amore,” “Big Spender,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and more.  And they’ve got a dynamite band trio, Music Director, Bo Ayers, Bernardo Gomez, bass and Jolie Clausen, Drums, to backup the songs.

The plot is a bit more complicated than it needs to be but, keep in mind, this is entertainment first and foremost.  Anyway, for those of you who need a story to hang your hat on, I’ll give it a try.  It seems that the “Husband” in the title should be Carmine, husband of Concetta (Sharon Mann), sister of Luigi (Lou Pallotta), the head of the family.  But the body actually could be Mikey, the plumber. Her secret love, though, is Dominick (Ernie Casciato), the Godfather of the group, who has been in a loony bin for the past several months and talks through others.

But, not to be outdone, there is Marie, (Tracy Sacdalan), the sister-in-law, who practices the ancient art of Rumpology, telling fortunes from reading people’s…posteriors.  And she has a son, Frankie, Jr. (Alex Lankford), who is a pretty cool cat.  And then there is Luigi’s daughter, Angela (Dani Baldwin), a hottie, who is going with long-time boyfriend, Johnny (John Casale), who seems to have a block when trying to express his love for Angela.  Of course, with every gang, there needs to be an Enforcer and that is the insatiable, Jimmy (Ben Plont), who also looks strikingly like Aunt Josephine.

And, just when you thought you had everything all figured out, there is some question as to whether Concetta actually is kin; whether there might have been a twin of one of the family members; whether one of the ladies may be having a miracle birth; and just where is Mama anyway.  Questions also arise when we see a handcuff on Dom’s wrist; whether they will have to perform the little-done, Cleaving Ceremony (and whether the house will get raided if they do what is probably an illegal Rite); and what other secrets are contained in Aunt Joe’s Chest of Family Memories?  Whew!  (And I’m sure I missed a few tidbits along the way, or got them, as a Rumpologist would say, ass-backward).

But, instead of trying to figure out who did what to whom and why…just enjoy the fun.  Keep in mind, as I mentioned, this is interactive and may be the ultimate in audience participation.  Of course, this means that the actors have to be on their toes all the time.  And they are, and do…splendidly.  How a director manages this organized chaos is beyond me, but Leuthold does it beautifully.  The audience does throw themselves into this melting pot with both hands and feet.  Great fun!  The only change I might suggest is that the little summing up at the end is unnecessary (save it for of the plot of Part III, which will happen at some point, right?!).  This is not a show one should have to think too hard on.

The actors are all pros.  Sacdalan, Mann, Baldwin and Lankford shine in their songs.  Casciato is a master ad-libber and comedian and does a pretty mean, “Mack, the Knife” (cleave your heart out, Bobby Darin).  Pallotta and Plont perform marvelously in their dual roles.  And Casale as an Elvis impersonator that can’t sing is funny to begin with.  A couple of side notes, Foote, Baldwin and Lankford (Artistic Director, Education Director and performer) are all associated with the outstanding, Oregon Children’s Theatre.  Baldwin, in particular, is not only a fine singer, dancer and actor on-stage but also is an impressive director and teacher at OCT, and their Young Professionals Company is outstanding!  Leuthold also has her own theatre company in Woodland, Love Street Playhouse, which is worth checking out.

And, did I mention, this is a dinner-show, so they served Antipasto, Chicken with mushrooms, a Caesar’s salad, a pasta salad, and a cheesecake with hot fudge, which is to die for.  There is also an open, full bar to purchase drinks.  For more information on the catering, go to their site for Steve Brown at Spin Catering at or call 503-730-7040.

I recommend this show.  And, of course, if you do choose to go to the show and/or use the catering services at some point, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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