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The Ritz 

This farce about mobsters in a gay bathhouse proves irresistible

Wednesday, Jun 12 2002
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Terrence McNally's farce about dull Mafioso types infiltrating a gay bathhouse in 1977 is the sort of trashy but hilarious mutant you'd expect from a mating of mob comedy with Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear. Gaetano Proclo believes the Ritz is a bathhouse-for-bathing, a Roman bath, where he can hide from mobsters who want to rub him out. He wanders in with a green suitcase and a pink-boxed fruitcake, claiming to be from Cleveland, and finds himself involved with a lounge singer named Googie Gomez and a handful of gay patrons, in particular a "chubby chaser" named Claude Perkins, who likes Proclo's big belly. Good character actors in the main roles keep the show from bogging down: Randel Hart is a vivid, crusty, Brooklyn-accented front-desk man named Abe; Laura Sottile, as Googie, is a trilling, hip-cocked Latina spitfire; and Jim Hoggatt plays Claude as a fragile, nerdish Southerner, a sort of Truman Capote on helium. There is no reason for the play to go on for 2 1/2 hours, and the musical numbers are appalling enough to make Pee-wee Herman look earnest, but McNally's high camp -- when it's acted well -- is hard to resist.

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