Kill My Wife -- Please!

Do we care about these things? Can Palminteri get all those dramatic marbles to move into place? What's at stake in Faithful is little more than the playwright's gamesmanship. What it lacks in emotional depth, the play makes up for in laughs. Most compelling is Palminteri's creation of a universe in which people put their own interests first -- no matter how absurd or self-defeating. Watching husband and wife outbid each other for his hit man services, Tony exclaims, "The way I feel now, I could kill you both for free."

Happily, no audience member is wounded. Under the direction of Rob LaGamba, the HBT production is neat, crisp, and uninhibited. Designer Arnold Dolan's black-and-white set delineates the tragicomedy of Margaret's life as a suburban accessory -- a statement made all the more effective by costuming her in a cardinal-red dress, the one element of color on the set. The brassy, effervescent Ellen Simmons plays Margaret as though she were a toy that up and learned how to think, a development that gives the play an appealing dollop of angst.

As Jack, who arrives in the second act wearing a double-breasted jacket and black shirt, John Saracco looks more like a Mafioso than Tony, but he doesn't seem to know if he's supposed to be sure of himself. Still, he gives a solid performance. Peter Paul DeLeo inhabits the role of Tony as though it were a suit he hasn't quite grown into. The role provides plenty of room for aloof commentary on Tony (played by Palminteri in the movie), and I wish DeLeo had made fun of him more. After all Palminteri, in all his works, seems to regard these guys as charismatic doofuses. Who else but a character like Tony would point out something as deliriously shallow as the statement "Happiness is something that has to be earned" and expect to be taken seriously?

Faithful.
Written by Chazz Palminteri. Directed by Rob LaGamba. Starring Ellen Simmons, Peter Paul DeLeo, and John Saracco. Through May 24. Hollywood Boulevard Theatre, 1938 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 954-929-5400.

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