Characters vs Story: David Varriale’s, The Last Vig at the Zephyr Theatre

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

gia on the move theatre reviews the last vig

David Varriale has created some specific characters in his new play The Last Vig, which as star actor Burt Young (Big Joe) remarked in a recent interview, “…could be any guy from Mulberry Street to Washington. D.C.” I would have to agree.

In fact, it could be noted that Varriale’s best talent is in actually capturing the nuances, good, bad and ugly, loud and quiet, of people who deeply reflect intriguing insight about themselves through language and behavior. And given that these are a bunch of multi-ethnic wiseguys, three of which are Italian, well, there’s plenty of that.

But although, moments may be telling and characters revealing, in and of themselves they do not paint an entire picture or tell a whole story or even a good one sometimes. And that is what’s kinda, sorta missing in this new production at the Zephyr Theatre about an aging mob boss trying to stay in the game.

What we have are a lot of back door exchanges, the boss with his young, hip-hop devoted assistant Bocce (Ben Adams), the Chinese restaurant owner Paul Li (Clint Jung), long time friend Jimmy “The Fixer” D. (Garreth Williams), the angry cop-on-the-take, Detective Ray Price (Bruce Nozick) and Joe with his wife on the phone, incapacitated by cancer, that don’t always serve up enough of a story.

As individuals, I would argue that the characters are somewhat archetypally written and have an average likable score, I would also argue most people probably have a generalized film glamor point of view about wiseguys, how they regularly behave and what they actually do. Here, though, Varriale adds a bit more on-the-ground reality.

Personally, growing up around these guys daily was at one time my actual, real life. And while everyone loves to tell you how it really is, how it actually was, was pretty ordinary.  Sure there were plenty of over-the-top reactions to many situations, some as silly as – who was gonna open the #$%^!&* coffee shop at 5 am.   More often, when it came down to something serious, subtlety prevailed – a lot like how Varriale has written The Last Vig.

The crew in The Last Vig are definitely bad, distrustful, violent guys with hardly any redeeming qualities, except that they can muster a bit of charm when needed.   And justice (very loosely termed in this situation) gets obstructed or completely derailed by circumstances, not within anyone’s control. So it’s possible that $100,000 gone missing or intimidation from one’s thorn, might result in some big repercussions. Both Big Joe and Jimmy D.  are past their hot-head stage. And finesse is key. Everyone gets played.

There are certainly challenges in this production from the too many telephone interludes to Young’s pacing to the writing to length, which could be shaved. The ending never really addresses Bocce’s character for instance although, by all the references made, we can probably guess his intent. The audience is left to “figure it out.”

What shines in The Last Vig is the strong cast who are working at a higher level with character reality and boosting Young with amped energy, timing and focus, helping him throughout the production. They are THAT good at moving around inside this writing as just a bunch of street guys, Garreth Williams (Jimmy D.) giving one of the most honest, insider portrayals I’ve ever witnessed to date on stage.

The Founder – Now Playing Everywhere

gia on the move movies filmDirected by John Lee Hancock (SAVING MR. BANKS), THE FOUNDER features the true story of how Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a struggling salesman from Illinois, met Mac and Dick McDonald, who were running a burger operation in 1950s Southern California. Kroc was impressed by the brothers’ speedy system of making the food and saw franchise potential. Writer Robert Siegel (THE WRESTLER) details how Kroc maneuvered himself into a position to be able to pull the company from the brothers and create a billion-dollar empire. The film also stars Laura Dern as Ray Kroc’s first wife Ethel; John Carroll Lynch as Mac McDonald and Nick Offerman as Dick McDonald.

Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, B.J. Novak and Laura Dern
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Written by:  Robert Siegel






What Goes Around Comes Around on Miami Beach

gia on the move fashion miamigia on the move fashion miami







On Friday, January 13, Actress Gabrielle Anwar and supermodel Inés Rivero stopped by the grand opening of the luxury vintage boutique What Goes Around Comes Around in Miami Beach.

Rocking a new short bob, Gabrielle Anwar arrived in vintage Chanel and Inés Rivero in a Chanel dress with 1950’s hand embroidered military souvenir jacket all sourced from What Goes Around Comes Around while they mingled with other bold and colorful ladies.

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Photo Credit: World Red Eye

gia on the move vintage miami


Ummagma and A.R.Kane Co-Present ‘Winter Tale’ mini-EP

“Ummagma’s sound is so trippy I had to buy new studio monitors to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.”

gia on the move musicA.R.Kane and Ummagma have been enjoying a budding friendship over the past year surrounding their involvement with shoegaze indie legends The Veldt.  So they decided to put a little something together.

Their latest ‘Frequency’ EP features contributions by several legendary artists, including Cocteau Twins master Robin Guthrie and Malcolm Holmes of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, both of whom bring their signature sound to their mixes. This EP follows their debut albums ‘Ummagma’ and ‘Antigravity’.

As ever, they take the listener through a cosmic yet introspective dreampop and ambient journey, tinged with shoegaze and synthpop flair. Their new offering explores such themes as space and distance, timelessness, escapism, and the search for tranquility.

Keep up with Ummagma 

Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | YouTube | Soundcloud

Keep up with A.R.Kane 
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Soundcloud | Email

I Went to Jamaica and Made a Mixtape

mixtapesThere’s a lot in the works from CNNCTD projects and collaborations to things that will look (and taste) better than any #foodcloseups. That’s a promise.

Quick story – There was a place called Fun Time USA. Growing up they had what I thought were the craziest teen nights. My clearest memory is of the reggae music played there. I would do my best to keep myself all “tucked in” and not throw up from the unlimited soda. I was 13 – This is to never growing up. ~ Roman Grandinetti

Falcon Theatre’s Little Drummer Bowie: “Wow! I didn’t see THAT coming!”

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
gia on the move theater reviews

Katie Kitani, Katie DeShan, Rick Batalla, Joseph Leo Bwarie, Niles Rivers, Cloie Wyatt Taylor Photo by Sasha A. Venola

He seemed to materialize out of nowhere. An androgynous young sub-genre big hair harbinger of glitter-glam, rock and roll to come. A drifter in the desert with a shy voice and “Come, they told me, pa rum pa pum pum. Me and my drum”.

It’s tax time and everyone’s got to pay up. While in one part of town Mary and Joseph are looking for a manger, scheming talent promoter Ben Haramed and his medical doctor wannabe side kick Ali are stuck without means. As serendipity would have it, they stumble upon a young, naive and especially besparkled Ziggy and his two beloved childhood animal buddies Samson and Babaa wandering on the fringes.

An orchestration of cha chings sound immediately in Ben’s inner ears.  After a brief kidnapping and a bit of family flash-back persuasion, the whole band begins touring, Spinal Tap style until a renowned and powerful music agent creates Ziggy Stardust as a world-wide phenomenon. Then all bets are off. Except for Ziggy’s parents, uncle and aunt who might be stuck on Mars. (NO ONE could have seen THAT coming!) It’s a tale of Changes, forgiveness and Modern Love, in Little Drummer Bowie at The Falcon Theatre.

gia on the move theater reviews

Joseph Leo Bwarie Photo by Sherry Greczmiel

A very first step in to The Falcon emerged as a ‘night to remember’. The award-winning Troubadour Theater Company did nothing to blemish their stellar Laugh-In reputation in this musical re-imagining of the drummer boy classic as a spoof on glam rock icon David Bowie.

Matt Walker and Joseph Leo Bwarie (also lead character Ziggy) have directed this piece to perfection in all its spontaneity and more. One cannot even begin to fathom the depth of insanity until experiencing this show. Recognizably ridiculous gags, deft delivery, lightning pace and a bit of cutting edge political humor all collide for a blaring, boisterous night.

Beth Kennedy (Ali), Riccardo Berdini (Ben Haramed),  Lisa Valenzuela (Mary), Rick Batalla (Joseph),  Katie Deshan (Nadhiyah), Niles Rivers (Jamaal), Katie Kitani (Babaa), Cloie Wyatt Taylor (Samson), and Matt Walker (The Voice From Above) dispatch downright galactic hilarity throughout every did-they-just-write-this-just-now? line and audience participation moment. (And yes, I got a hug from a cast member…it was nice.)

Joseph Leo Bwarie (Ziggy)  most widely known for his record 2,000+ performances as ‘Frankie Valli’ in the Tony Award-winning musical Jersey Boys on Broadway, is solidly exceptional in every way.

Every bit from costumes to lighting to wigs, choreography and music arrangements to the live onstage band hit the mark 100% and then some.

Very highly recommended.