Couplets in Crime

In New York, one sees Shakespeare done every which way, from strictly faithful to ultramodern to "What were they thinking?" Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather adds another twist: turning a contemporary piece classical. Playwright/director David Mann has adapted the shooting script of Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, replacing curses with couplets and silencers with swords. Not surprisingly, to those familiar with both Shakespeare and Mario Puzo's story, this tale of power, vengeance, and family covers familiar bloody ground found in Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and other works by the Bard, making it a perfect fit. After some initial titters at the eloquent language coming out of the mouths of characters like Sonny Corleone and the Don, the audience settled into the conceit and the show, which is a drama, after all. The killing of Sollozzo and McCluskey in the restaurant turns from a shocking character turning point to a steel-on-steel battle for survival. (It's best not to dwell on how Clemenza could hide a sword in a toilet.) Those who haven't seen the movie may be a little confused, since some scenes (like the horse's head in Woltz's bed and the death of Appolonia) are merely touched on in narration. The film's fans will be amused by the changes and then surprised at how they are drawn into the story again, even though this isn't the cast they're used to.

Drew Cortese may not be Al Pacino, but he makes a quiet, compelling Michael. Morgan Spector has a hint of Marlon Brando's marble-mouthiness in his delivery as Don Vito Corleone, but steers clear of a full-on impression. He's a bit young to be the father of the actors playing his progeny, but he has a boss's calm presence. Greg Derelian flexes both acting and bicep muscles in his portrayals of the hothead Sonny Corleone and the airhead Luca Brasi. The other cast members do equally well with iambic pentameter and playing multiple characters.

The program says the play has already earned a spot at a Houston theater next year. Mann's creation is not a show to go on Broadway or to win Tonys; it's a show to entertain, and to give smaller theaters the chance to do something more fun than another production of Romeo and Juliet. Of course, Shakespeare and Puzo were writing for the common man, so what better audience can their fictional love child hope to get?

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