With the announcement that all that matters to his grandparents are the three F's--family, faith, and food--Nick Cristano (Daniel Tatar) narrates a story that attempts to explain the dynamic of his volatile Italian family. His parents and sister have left New York, and he is the only remaining grandchild to continue to have the obligatory Sunday dinner with Frank and Aida Gianelli (S. Marc Jordan, Annie Abbott) on his mother's side and Nunzio and Emma Cristano (John Capodice, Marie Lillo) on his father's. This Sunday he is going to break the news that he is moving to Seattle for a fabulous promotion. He is not expecting them to welcome this news, but he is chagrined to find out that they will do almost anything to keep him there, including setting him up with a blind date, Caitlan (Madison Dunaway), and nursing him through a serious panic attack. To them la famiglia comes before ambition.
A large portion of the audience found these machinations exceedingly humorous. I was not one of them. The hit-you-in-the-face nature of the stereotypes and the predictable dialogue fail to elicit true sentiment, which would elevate this piece, until nearly the end of the production. It just isn't soon enough.
Having said that, the actors play their parts with gusto. Capodice takes top honors, giving his character believability. Lillo is a good match, a familiar housewife whose answers to all trials are Mass cards. Abbott does the best she can with a part that only requires pushing food on everyone, and Jacobs captures the gruff but tenderhearted immigrant whose duty always comes first. Dunaway adds warmth to author Joe DiPietro's romantic contrivance.
Productions values are excellent: Dwight Richard Odle's costumes, Neil Peter Jampolis' set and lights, and David Edwards' sound punctuate the play to great effect. Director Joel Bishoff handles the material with levity, but it's an uphill battle to treat this as much more than a sitcom. Soliloquies by the characters allow glimpses of what might be, but more often the laugh is the ultimate destination.
Presented by McCoy Rigby Entertainment with and at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada. Tue.-Thu. 7:30 p.m., Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2:30 & 8 p.m., Sun. 2:30 & 7 p.m. (Dark Sat. 2 p.m. Jan. 28 and Sun. 7 p.m. Jan. 29.) Jan. 27-Feb. 12. (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310.