“Losing Your Pants” — Laughter and Meatballs

Going to see “Losing Your Pants” at Cotuit Center for the Arts’ Black Box Theater is a lot like visiting your crazy, but loveable, relatives as they gather for a family reunion/wedding/hideout from the Mafia.

Except, unlike the others, you don’t have to explain your actions to Mama, who is clearly in charge despite having just returned from a six-year visit to her dying sister and despite her unwise decisions regarding what to feed the dog.

You can just sit and watch and laugh at the antics, as this three-ring circus of a play unfolds, right in your living room. The play makes excellent use of the intimate 26-seat Black Box theater, using not only the cozy living room, complete with authentic fireplace, but the front door, the entryway leading both upstairs and to the dining room, and the hallway leading to the bathroom. The mantel and built-ins are full of family photos, plants, and other memorabilia that set a folksy mood even before the action begins.

“Losing Your Pants was written by Fran DeVasto of Wellfleet and is based in part on his own extended Italian family. It is directed by PJ McKey, who makes it look like the play was written just for this space. (In fact, thought, the playwright’s goal is to use this Black Box run to test the play out for future runs in larger theaters, and that, too would work well, giving the characters more room to emote.)

Mama (Karen McPherson) has two sons, Joey (Jim Gallagher) and Sal (Brian Dudley) and a daughter, Angelina (Deanna Dziedzina). Joey is married to Lisa (Lisa Jo Rudy) and they have a 14-year-old son, Pat (Austin Keane) who sags his pants and his hat backwards just like everyone else to express his individuality. Angie is arriving home to get married to Nicky (JP Doherty) or, perhaps, Nikki (LA Haller). They are joined by Sue (Norinne Czekanski) who is providing the flowers for the wedding, aided by her husband Tom (Paul Widegren), who figures in both Lisa’s and Joey’s past lives. It’s complicated.

McPherson’s Mama is often angry or bewildered, but she does have her softer side, which her late husband Vincenzo brings out well. George Beninghof is Vincenzo. He can be seen only by Mama, and quite, fortunately, by the audience, as he is wonderful, giving a George Burns flair to the role, complete with cigar and thoughtful demeanor. He soothes Mama’s nerves, while assuring her it is not her time to come join him in heaven, as he is apparently enjoying himself just fine without her.

Gallagher’s Joey is the real backbone of the family and the play, taking care of the family taxi business, the house, the dog, and Mama, as the madness ensues. Rudy’s non-Italian Lisa is good-natured and cheerful, despite Mama calling her “Irish” in derogatory fashion. Gallagher and Rudy ground this comedy, and their natural acting and comedic styles lends credibility to the play.

Their rebellious son Pat is nicely played by Austin Keane, a freshman at Barnstable High School.

Dudley is appropriately paranoid, and a not just a little loony, as Sal; and Dziedzina’s Angie is a more gently balmy free spirit.

The play kept the audience laughing throughout, and the program includes a recipe for Authentic Italian Meatballs so you can carry the warm Italian family spirit home with you.

Tickets are selling out quickly for the entire run of the show, so if you are planning to go, buy your tickets soon.

The Black Box Theater is at 4404 Route 28 in Cotuit and continues through May 20 on Friday and Saturday nights at 8 PM and Sunday afternoons at 4 PM. Two Thursday shows have been added: May 10 and May 17 at 7 PM. Latecomers cannot be seated. Tickets are $12 and may be purchased by calling 508-428-0669 or visiting artsonthecape.org.

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