Talk about product placement! As you walk into the newly restored Actors’ Playhouse (you can still hear the heat pipes rattling; the comfortable seats have wooden armrests that are equipped with holes so that you may take in a drink while enjoying the show) you are greeted by three large video screens where jars of Ragu Spaghetti Sauce are projected, seemingly dancing all over the place. The videos are accompanied by the songs of Sinatra, Louis Prima and Rosemary Clooney getting everyone in the “mama mia” mood.
I hope Ragu is somehow helping this production for all the free pre-performance publicity for this ninety minute, one man’s journey through life with his maze of Sicilian relatives aptly titled, Blood Type: Ragu. The man being Frank Ingrasciotta. Writer and performer. He is tall and charming and very ingratiating. Very funny. As with all one man shows if the performer is not up to the task of delivering the many characters brought to life on stage there is little reason to attend. I am happy to report that Mr. Ingrasciotta has all that is needed to embody his always cooking, long suffering mama and his always “King of the House” construction working papa, his uncle, his neighbors (with hilarious nick names) and everyone else involved in his interesting Italian-American life.
With a black and white vinyl and chrome dinette chair as his only prop Frankie transforms himself with a variety of Italian accents and gestures – speaking in Italian at times but always translating to great comic effect. Backing him up are the three amazing video screens that show the various locations of his life both in America and Sicily. They are extremely inventive and add immeasurably to the story of Frankie’s adventures – the joint effort of Scenic Designer John McDermott and Projection Designer Joshua Higgason. Director Ted Sod has done a fine job in keeping everything interesting and well paced going from moments of hilarity to moments of introspection and I imagine he had something to do with the clever design scheme.
Starting out as a young boy, we see Frankie learning about his mom and dad – being forced into the position of translator and arbitrator, seeing his mom become more and more independent until she divorces his father, seeing his father hook up with another woman, seeing Frankie hook up with a hooker, attending two wakes, loving Disco, Ricotta, sunflowers, going on a blind date and marrying and finally being able to have feelings that he never was allowed to have. If this sounds like a lot. It is. After a while just when you think it’s ending another episode emerges. Blood Type: Ragu’s sauce begins to thin. With some expert editing this could be a wonderful look into the life of Frank Ingrasciotta’s. As it is, it’s “Molto bene ma troppo lungo.” (“Very good but too long.”)