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Theatre Review (LA): Sonneteer by Nick Salamone at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center

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Sonneteer is a new play by Nick Salamone directed by his long-time collaborator Jon Lawrence Rivera. The story involves the Caramones family and is centered around the character Michael (Ray Oriel), a first-generation Italian immigrant, steeped in Catholicism and the social mores of the time period after World War II. Michael has a secret, a hidden homosexual relationship with his comrade-in-arms and best friend Joey (Ed Martin). When this relationship is revealed all hell breaks loose. Michael’s brother Lou (a butch Paul Haitkin) will have none of it nor will Michael’s sister Vita (Cynthia Gravinese) who just happens to have a yen for Joey. When Joey accidentally kills his brother, he is consumed with guilt, and his brother’s wife Livvy (Sandra Purpuro) is filled with a rage that won’t go away. Out of this guilt Michael marries another friend, Ella (a loving Victoria Huffman), in order to flee from his guilt over his brother’s murder and his homosexual tendencies.

In the second act we meet Lucius who is the now grown son of the dead Lou and Livvy. Lucius, who is homosexual, is played by the same actor who plays Lou (Paul Haitkin) who convincingly creates a totally different persona. Lucius teaches sonnets in a college. His mother rejects him, but his aunt Vita is more forgiving. Michael remains miserable and Ella is starting to feel the strain. When Joey happens by again all hell breaks loose. After Vita dies her son Lucius discovers a cache of sonnets that his mother wrote to deal with her pain and thus the title of the play.

Overall the direction is good and I particularly liked the work of Ed Martin, Paul Haitkin, and Elizabeth Hoffman. I had trouble with Cynthia Gravinese in the first act because she seemed such a cliché but warmed up to her in the second act. Unfortunately I never warmed up to Sandra Purpuro and just couldn’t believe that the character she played, al least the way she acted the part, could ever have written a poem. She seemed right out of Real Housewives of New Jersey .

Sonneteer has been extended a number of times and it playing at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center until April 17.

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