Reviewed by Sharon Shahar
A lone, hulking man in an overcoat lumbers down the center aisle of the theater, and up onto the stage. As he plunks down his suitcases and turns to the audience, we are almost reminded of Ralph Kramden, the belligerent bus driver whose mushy sentimentality made viewers tune in every week to “The Honeymooners” just to see him wiggle out of his latest foot-in-mouth fiasco. But when this world-weary traveler mimes the attire and demeanor of a milkman going about his delivery rounds, the aura becomes one of comedic antics and tomfoolery all rolled into one. However, this play is anything but a comedy and although there are humorous moments, “The Milkman’s Sister”, written by Mark Blickley, and brilliantly directed by Joe Battista, is a stinging testimony to a both a country and a marriage on the verge of crisis.
The milkman, Sal Furfante (played to perfection by the seasoned Robert Funaro), has just lost his job and is forced to move in with his sister, Nina Spinner, (played by a very energetic and engaging Concetta Rose Rella) and her abusive husband, Burt Spinner (portrayed with biting clarity and vibrancy by Dan Yaiullo). The tension between all three is palpable but when news of the Cuban Missile Crisis descends like a black cloud over their tiny, monotonous world, it reaches suffocating proportions.
As we watch this Bronx neighborhood in 1962 (the set expertly replicates the era) unravel into utter chaos, the acrimony between these three swells to the breaking point and some disturbing insights into their lives are revealed.
“The Milkman’s Sister” is a passionate tour de force about irrational fear and paranoia, two human emotions that can drive a community of ordinary folk to the edge. Of particular note, however, is the extraordinary work of Jenne Vath (Dotty) as the loyal, longtime friend and neighbor of Nina, whose performance is poignant and altogether gut-wrenching.
Mr. Blickley’s play runs weekends through December at the 13th Street Repertory Theater (50 West 13th Street, NYC) under the guidance of its powerhouse creative director Joe Battista, who, as mentioned previously, also directed this show. Be sure to catch this moving drama while the milkman is still making his rounds.
Joe Battista directs the company [photo provided by 13th Street Rep]