Jamie Bonelli and Michael Basilein All Dolled Up (Photo © Carol Rosegg)
Jamie Bonelli and Michael Basile
in All Dolled Up
(Photo © Carol Rosegg)
Have you heard the one about the cross-dressing gangster? Well, it isn't very funny. Bobby Spillane's All Dolled Up is not only short on laughs, it's downright boring. While the playwright -- son of "Gentleman Gangster" Mickey Spillane -- might conceivably have some inside knowledge of the way things work in the mob, this "comedy" is clichéd and stereotypical.

It's set in New York in the 1960s. The plot revolves around young thief Salvatore (Michael Basile), who's nicknamed "Sally" even before his transvestite tendencies surface. He and his best friend, John (Rocco Parente), are on-the-rise mobsters working for Don Chello (John F. O'Donohue). Sally meets and falls for Patti (Jamie Bonelli), a free-spirited hippie chick who lives in Greenwich Village.

After the two attend a party filled with gay men, lesbians, and cross-dressers, Sally is able to articulate for the first time his secret desire to wear women's clothing and learns that his fetish can actually be accepted by others, including the woman he loves. Such acceptance comes less easily from the mob, however, and the remainder of the play deals with the complications that arise from Sally's dual status as transvestite and wiseguy.

The script includes betrayals, secret government agents, and the Stonewall Riots; the dialogue is often stilted, and the acting is largely overdone. Basile endows Sally with a peppy energy and a winning smile, yet he never delves deeply into the complexities of the character. The remaining cast members all portray "types": the mob boss's two-timing wife Roxanne (Susan Campanaro), the flamboyant gay man Ricky (Matt Gallagher), the dim-witted mobsters Frankie (Tomm Bauer) and Joey (Christo Parenti). There's very little character development here, and several of the actors overplay their stereotyped roles to the point of caricature.

While there's potential for both comedy and drama in the premise of All Dolled Up, the play and the production are poorly executed. Under Susan Campanaro's direction, this 90-minute show is filled with questionable staging choices. For example: To indicate a shift from Bensonhurst to the Village, the cast members sing along to a recording of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" while they sashay around the stage dressed as hippies. The director surely intended for this to be funny and whimsical, but it comes across as simply ludicrous and inept.