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Frankie, Backstage PDF Print E-mail

Reviewed By Mark Dundas Wood


The title character in Daniel Roberts' "Frankie" could be said to live a life of quiet desperation, except that he gets a bit noisy sometimes.

Overweight, nerdy, and generally disagreeable, the post-adolescent Frankie (Aaron Munoz) lives with his mother (Andrea Gallo) and stepfather (Anthony Patellis) in Cherry Hill, N.J., and works at a supermarket called Superfeast. Though he seems to accept his lot -- with a few bitter grumbles -- Frankie really wishes to make his mark in life. His stepfather has taken him to see Broadway's "The Phantom of the Opera" and Frankie understandably identifies with the Phantom -- like himself, an unlovely, misunderstood outcast.

At Superfeast, Frankie falls in with bad company: his bughouse supervisor, Mr. Angelini (Davis Hall), and his sexy co-worker Virginia (Kristina Klebe). These two are part of a secret militia plotting to blow up the Superfeast come Independence Day. They enlist Frankie in their cause in the role of suicide bomber.

Roberts and director Alex Lippard are dealing with timely and important material here, of course. Like certain young terrorists in the Middle East, Frankie stands to gain more by counting on promises about the joys of the hereafter than by continuing his earthly life.

The play seems at points to be a serious, even realistic exploration of Frankie's plight. At other moments it's a scathing caricature, mocking the unspeakable haplessness of these wretched New Jerseyites.

Most of the actors deliver solid, watchable performances. Hall plays Angelini with just the right unhinged pomposity. And Gallo is fine as the feisty, pragmatic mother gazing on her mess of a son, eyes filled with both love and weary resignation.

Then there's Munoz, who manages to make Frankie -- someone you wouldn't want to spend time with in real life -- sympathetic if not exactly engaging.