An unfortunate attempt to turn hits into a hit, All Dolled Up's punchy script is made worse by wacky performances and directorial choices that misfire.
The setup is promising enough, as such things go: Salvatore (or "Sally") is a mobster who is unable to perform with women and who fetishizes women's clothing. In Greenwich Village he meets a young hippie chick named Patti, who is open-minded enough to open him up, as it were; he soon becomes a full-fledged cross-dresser, notwithstanding his choice of vocation. The play then focuses on his interactions with his Mafia friends, most of whom tend to be rather skeptical of a mobster in a dress. Ultimately they begin to tolerate and profit from Sally's sallying as he bids to create a Mafia-backed bar that caters to his friends.
Bobby Spillane's script tries so hard to be funny that the laughs all seem strained. There is no real sense of timing, no subtext, little imaginative use of language, and spare exploration of Sally's character. Filmic to an uncomfortable degree, there are many short scenes that flash by to forward specious plot ideas. Other than Sally, there is no real characterization, though Spillane introduces a bevy of buffoons that ache to be filled out.
Much of director Susan Campanaro's cast mugs enthusiastically, making all this play very desperately. As Sally, Michael Basile gives an adequate performance, and as John, a Mafia capo, Rocco Parente manages to show some charisma. But Campanaro (who has triple-cast herself as Salvatore's girlfriend, his mother, and a newswoman), John F. O'Donohue (as a Mafia don), and Matt Gallagher (as Ricky, Patti's friend) all push so hard they completely lose any thread of humanity these characters might have. Campanaro also makes awkward and amateurish staging choices, frequently relying on stereotypes and directing actors to pose to fill out the scenes. Even the blackouts are abrupt and clumsy, a sure sign of a troubled show.
Presented by Colin Quinn and Working Stiffs Productions at the Acorn Theatre, 410 W. 42nd St., NYC. May 14-June 11. Mon., Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 and 7 p.m. (212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com.