Last week I was invited to a performance of the new Off-Broadway play, Queen for a Day, starring David Proval (Richie Aprile of The Sopranos) and Vincent Pastore (The Sopranos’ Big Pussy), at the Theater at St. Clements on the west end of Restaurant Row.
I had no idea what to expect, except that it was probably a Mob story, simply based on these two actors who have made good careers in that genre. It starts out as typical. Giovanni “Nino” Cinquimani (David Proval) is a crime boss meeting with his lawyer, Sanford Weiss (played by David Deblinger) in an empty warehouse, waiting for a Federal Agent Patricia Cole (played by Portia) to discuss Nino’s crime family life as part of him testifying against his brother, Pasquale, the family Capo (played by Vincent Pastore). This is to be their first meeting to see if Nino has a usable information to qualify him for witness protection. The title Queen for a Day is the slang used for the proffer agreement between the government and witnesses which allows them to talk freely, where nothing may be used against them, as first step towards turning state evidence.
Nino, deftly played by Proval, runs his lawyer to the ground as they nervously wait for the arrival of Agent Cole. We learn of Nino’s life as he reminisces of better times in Brooklyn, and of his life as a crime figure. What he has to offer is not enough, and Agent Cole pushes Nino hard. Real hard, forcing him to dig deeper. About midway through the play, well written by Michael Ricigliano, Jr., takes several unexpected twists and turns unveiling Nino’s secrets, which make this more of a psychological thriller. To reveal any more would be a disservice to both the audience and the playwright, but I will say the audience rose to its feet with the final gunshot. David Proval gives a tremendous performance, never leaving the stage!
The actors meet fans after the theater and I had the pleasure of reuniting with old friends. I was surprised on how warmly Vincent greeted me, remembering the times we briefly worked together over the last 20 years. David Proval talked about the work that went into his character and in developing this drama, which runs about 95 minutes without intermission.
If you want an evening good theater — of an interesting Mob story well-told with solid acting — go see Queen for a Day. Fans of The Sopranos will have the added attraction of meeting Big Pussy and Richie Aprile … but – more importantly – will be reminded of their acting prowess.