LA TImes Review of Starfire

Warm Performances Drive This 'Starfire'
By JANA J. MONJI, Special to The Times
 

In "Starfire," Sam Ingraffia's new comedy set in 1967, an Italian American family deals with past and present mob connections and what an Oldsmobile Starfire means to one ambitious young man, Sal (Tyler Christopher). The Company of Angels Theatre ensemble's heartfelt performances almost overcome the weaknesses of Ingraffia's script. A year after eloping, Sal and Theresa (Vanessa Marcil) are forced to return to her parents' Los Angeles house for the final months of her pregnancy. Her father, Mario (Art LaFleur), is gruffly unforgiving while the physically fragile mother, Lena (Cathrine Grace), plays peacemaker. Sal's prison record haunts him as he looks for a job. When Sal finally goes to work at Mario's barbershop, Mario squelches Sal's smallest show of enthusiasm. Sal's friend, Leo (Scott Waugh), entices him into shady business deals and the freedom of bachelorhood. Yet it's really an L.A. love triangle--a boy, his car and his girl.

Ingraffia's script attempts to show Sal's inner turmoil in awkward soliloquies, and some of the drama is contrived. Yet under the direction of Michael Clark Haney, the cast shines with earnestness.  Christopher manages to remain likable, even at his most sullen. LaFleur moves believably from anger to a protective paternal glow while Grace provides the calming center. Marcil's Theresa is a woman shedding girlish sweetness as she gathers strength, though the script fails to go anywhere with her growing awareness. Despite the faulty structure, these actors build an attractive foundation of a family, reforming and rediscovering love.

 

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