Review: “Waiting for the Don” at the American Theatre of Actors

Anthony J. Piccione

  • New York Critic

Late last month, playwright Steve Silver – a 35 year veteran of the stages at the American Theatre of Actors – passed away suddenly at the relatively young age of 56. The mood was decidedly somber on the opening night of Waiting for the Don, Mr. Silver’s final play which premiered on schedule, just one week after his untimely death. Nonetheless, that did not stop the cast from doing all they could to honor the playwright’s legacy by putting on the strongest performance of this work that they could, as I saw with my own eyes earlier this week.

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Set in the present day, the play mainly follows the character of Mickey “Mirrors” Miraglia, an old-school mafia boss who deals with various associates as he tries to tie up some loose ends during the holiday season. According to the history of the play I was provided, this play acts as the successor to the one-act play Mirrors, which features the returning lead actor from that same character. (More on that later.) While I can’t speak to how this compares to that original one-act, I can say that this felt story felt like one where every detail of dialogue felt important to the story, and that little – if anything – needed to be cut, in order for this story to be perfected. I can’t always say that with plays such as this, which often feel bloated and drag on for minutes at a time, all too often seem to be begging to be cut down a bit. Yet the impression I was left with was that this was a polished story with engaging conversations about doing Mafia work in the modern era (as noted from references to gentrification and hipsters) from beginning to end.

Under the flawless direction of Laurie Rae Waugh, the play is staged in a minimalistic format, allowing the focus to stay primarily on the actors, which is fitting, considering that the characters and the dialogue of the play is what keeps this play going, more than any plot elements that would require any particular set, lighting or sound requirements. With only one setting per each act, and thus only one set change over the course of the performance, this script seems almost tailor made for the minimal aesthetic that often defines indie theatre, and the fact that the writing itself and its performance are what stand out more than any other aspect I could critique are a better testament to the work of the late Mr. Silver than anything I can think of, for him or any other playwright.

In the lead role of Mickey, Ken Coughlin displays all the necessary gravitas and personality to portray a powerful individual such as this aging mob boss. Meanwhile, Tom Kalnas and Manny Rey each display a convincing level of wiseguy cockiness in the roles of Petey (aka Shakes) and Bobby (aka Botz), respectively. Daniel Mirra does justice to the role of Mickey’s associate Carmen, while Elena Crociani turns in a very well-done performance as Mickey’s daughter Theresa, who’s character has a particularly notable plot twist toward the end, which could be missed with a blink. Finally, as we reach the second act, Daddytom and Norberto Cancel keep the audience engaged as Dominick and Paulie Colavito, two brothers who wait around for Mickey to arrive in Florida in a Waiting for Godot-esque fashion. (It’s a similarity which does not go unnoticed, during the play itself.)

This play is what I’d consider to be a decent example of dark, gritty realism in theatre, and of well-written, character-driven storytelling. Indeed, the tone of the play was not unlike that of classic mob films such as The Godfather and Goodfellas, and aside from the tragic death that came during the lead-up to opening night, the most tragic element of this production was perhaps the fact that negotiations had been underway for this play to be adapted for the screen, at the time of Mr. Silver’s death. While that possibility’s future is now uncertain, at best, this story is still being presented at the Sargent Theatre for the next week or so at the ATA. If you get the chance, especially if you’re a fan of this genre of work, consider coming to see this work while you still can during its run.

 “Waiting for the Don” runs at the Sargent Theatre at the American Theatre of Actors from April 4th to 15th. For more information, please visit www.americantheatreofactors.com.