Friday, October 26, 2007

Were Critics Cheering Bronx Tale?

Were Critics Cheering Bronx Tale?

Last evening, the 2007-08 Theatrical Season's first solo show opened at Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre. Directed by Jerry Zaks, A Bronx Tale is told by Chazz Palminteri as he recalls his youth. Critics were lukewarm to positive.

Proclaiming it "enormously entertaining," Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press is pretty enthusiastic: "Theater these days is awash in one-person shows, but what makes this one particularly effective is its ability to conjure up a specific time and place, not to mention a parade of appealing characters, even if some are a little less than reputable....The craggy Palminteri, nattily dressed in gray slacks and a blue shirt, has a disarmingly simple way of bringing these people to life."

Despite what he characterizes as a "highly melodramatic climax," Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News offers a mostly upbeat review: "There's a familiar mean-streets morality tale here. But Palminteri writes with vivid detail that makes the past come alive. Under Jerry Zaks' smooth direction (except for some maudlin music designed to pull heartstrings), Palminteri acts with gusto and bravado."

"A warm-hearted memoir" is how Charles Isherwood of The New York Times describes the tale: "As he strides across the stage with a lively gait, nimbly sliding from one role to another, he exudes a moment-to-moment engagement that suggests that this revival is not a lazy ego trip but a rejuvenating act of faith in the complementary powers of acting and storytelling....A Bronx Tale may not possess the emotional breadth or sophistication of “The Sopranos.” But, appealingly, it lacks that show’s brutality too."

Downplaying this as "a harmless 90 minutes," Linda Winer of Newsday damns with faint praise: "A Bronx Tale," which opened last night at the Walter Kerr Theatre, is a walk down memory lane of what was already a walk down memory lane. Palminteri is a fine mimic and re-creates all the people who shaped his life with the confidence and affection of the man who lived it."

While noting that it's "mildly entertaining and impressively acted," David Rooney of Variety offers a mixed assessment: "Charming or chilling, the recollections in A Bronx Tale are touched by affection, sentimentality and the poignant distance of time. If the solo show is not exactly robust theater, it nonetheless gets by on the writer-actor's strong personal connection to the semi-autobiographical material."

In his two-star review, New York Post's Clive Barnes was hardly moved: "Palminteri is more a journeyman actor who has painted himself into a virtuoso corner. After a rather stilted start, he warms to the task, though some of his characters still seem more credible than others. Just how autobiographical and unadorned his tale is, I'm not sure - certainly, the long arm of coincidence is pulled like elastic, and the bile of life is much sweetened by the sugar of sentimentality."

A Bronx Tale performs at the Walter Kerr Theatre through February 10.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for ticket information.
Related Stories:
A Bronx Tale (The SOB Review) (October26, 2007)
Bronx Boy Takes Bite Out Of Big Apple Tonight (October 25, 2007)
Bronx Tale Set To Begin Anew In Manhattan (August 8, 2007)

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