The Last Vig
Reviewed by Katie Buenneke
Through February 19
The Last Vig is billed as a show starring Burt Young, the Academy Award-nominated actor who played Paulie in the Rocky series. Unfortunately, Young’s performance is one of many big problems in the show, which plays through February 19 at the Zephyr Theatre.
The play, which was written and directed by David Varriale, is about an aging mobster, Big Joe (Young), who’s in a bit of trouble: Big Joe’s courier has run off with $100,000 in casino chips that were supposed to go to one of Big Joe’s mafia friends. Big Joe’s assistant, a young guy named Bocce (Ben Adams), is acquainted with the courier, and Bocce’s main goal is to make Big Joe’s life easier. Big Joe calls in his friend Jimmy D (Gareth Williams), a “fixer,” to try and come up with a solution, but Detective Ray Price (Bruce Nozick) is nosing around, sure that something shady is going on in the back room of General Li (Clint Jung)’s restaurant.
Though billed as a 90-minute show, the play clocks in at a slow two hours. Part of what makes the show feel so long are the long pauses between lines, which make it seem like Young is trying to find his next line. Indeed, there are moments when the characters reference lines Young didn’t say, and vice versa. It’s also very difficult to understand Young, who mutters quietly. The rest of the cast is clearly trying to help him out, repeating what he said back to the audience so it’s possible to follow the story, but they can only do so much.
It doesn’t help that the plot itself is alternatingly banal and incomprehensible. The characters’ actions don’t make sense, and neither does the timeline of the show. None of the characters is sympathetic, which makes it hard to be vested in anyone’s success. Li is probably the most likable character, but he’s barely in the show, and doesn’t play a significant role. Gareth Williams’ Jimmy D is surprisingly endearing, but it’s hard to root for a man who has admitted to being a terrible person personally (he spends a few minutes in the second act talking about his many former mistresses), and has obviously done some wretched things professionally. None of the other characters (including Rose Marie) is even remotely winning.
Most irksome, though, is the play’s ending. First, we see these hyper-masculine mobsters let someone walk all over them (which doesn’t ring true at all: wouldn’t they just kill anyone who wronged them?). Then, a character raises an important question about Bocce’s character. And then the play just… ceases to exist. — in the middle of the story. There’s no resolution: We never find out what happened to the courier, or what’s going on with Bocce, or whether Big Joe is going to be able to pay back his friend. The only indication that the play is actually over is when the actors come out for their final bows. They leave, and so does the audience, likely wondering “What on earth did I just watch — and why?”
Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun.-Mon., 7 p.m., through Feb. 19; (323) 960-7712 or www.TheLastVig.com. Running time: two hours with a 20 minute intermission.