Sopranos Wise Guys Vincent Pastore and David Proval Reunite Off-Broadway
"Big Pussy" and "Richie Aprile" star in the new mob-themed drama A Queen for a Day.
"Interview him for forty-five minutes and give me ten," Vincent Pastore says as he sinks into a seat in the front row at the Theatre at St. Clement's. The "him" he is referring to, David Proval, is sitting a few seats away. Together, they lead the four-member cast of A Queen for a Day, a twisty new off-Broadway mob drama by Michael Ricigliano Jr.
Though you might not know their names, you wouldn't think twice when you see their faces. Pastore and Proval are instantly recognizable from their well-known and absolutely terrifying performances as made-men Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bompensero and Richie Aprile on HBO's The Sopranos. Given their history together, and their habit of adding punch lines to each other's sentences, you can tell they get along famously. But interviewing them is a harder task.
A simple question like "Which one of you got involved with this play first?" can lead into an intense rendition of "Who's on First?":
David Proval: I did. He called me and said, "You doin' a play?"
Vincent Pastore: Nah, that's not true. Why don't you be very honest and tell the guy the whole true story?
Proval: I paid him.
Pastore: Nah, the truth is…Seriously David, you were already involved with this.
Proval: Yeah. That's what I was saying.
Pastore: Oh, OK. All right.
Proval: I was involved with the play and he had heard about the play.
Pastore: No, I didn't! I didn't know nothin' about this play. You called me up and said, "I'm doin' a play in New York, you wanna be in it?" and I said, "OK," and it was as simple as that. And you said, "Do you want me to send you the script?" and I said, "I don't care, I wanna do it." And you said, "There's no money," and I said, "I don't care, I'm rich."
So it was Proval who got involved first, taking on the role of Giovanni "Nico" Cinquimani, a made-man torn between love and loyalty when he is asked to give up his crime boss brother (played by Pastore) as part of an immunity deal called "Queen for a Day." But the role wasn't his to lose. "I did a movie called Lily of the Feast," Proval says. "The writer of that movie is the writer of this play. He said to me, 'Listen, I've got a play, but I'm waiting to hear from Anthony LaPaglia, who's interested. If I don't hear from Anthony, would you read it?'"
"So you were second choice," Pastore accuses. "Or third," Proval replies. "F**kin' second banana. I wouldn't tell the press you took the play because LaPaglia passed," Pastore continues. "They were blessed and got lucky that Anthony passed. That's how I got involved," Proval finally concludes.
What interested Proval about the piece was how it differed from all of the other mob-type dramas he's seen. "Here are tough guys whose lives are reduced to just two brothers talking about mommy and daddy," he says. "To see that vulnerability, there's something about that that people are intrigued by. I am." Pastore concurs: "Me and my brother, we grew up in an Italian community, where there was a lot of anger, and a lot of emotion after the anger. That's what happens in the play. And you know, you look back and what started a lot of this was The Sopranos. Jimmy [Gandolfini], the way he played Tony Soprano, he played it the same way." "He was lovable," Proval adds. "And sexy. Remember one year he was voted one of the ten sexiest men?"
All roads in the conversation eventually lead back to The Sopranos. Proval's Richie Aprile was one of the show's scariest and most memorable psychopaths, even though he only appeared in ten episodes before meeting his fate at the hands of a pistol, his corpse dismembered by the meat slicer at Satriale's Pork Store. Pastore's Big Pussy eventually met his fate swimming with the fishes after becoming an FBI informant.
But apparently Sopranos fans aren't coming to see the play in droves. "Not as much as we thought," Pastore notes. "I don't think they even know about it yet."
"We're brand-new," Proval adds.
Given the TV show's enduring popularity, you'd think it would be a no-brainer. "We need as much support from guys like you with the media so people can know about this play," he continues. "I think it's more important now for people to come and sit here and wonder what happens at the end of this play," he concludes in a nod to the now-infamous screen-goes-black ending of The Sopranos, which has spawned countless discussions since its first airing in 2007.
"How much of this interview is left?" Pastore bellows. "I gotta go put my makeup on." Everybody laughs, because they know the truth. "Nah," Pastore says before making his way backstage. "I don't put no f**kin' makeup on."