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Through Feb. 12 at New Jersey Rep
179 Broadway, Long Branch.
Thurs & Fri at 8PM;Sat at 3 & 8; Sun at 2PM.
Tickets ($46): 732-229-3166 or at www.njrep.org
Reviewed by Philip Dorian January 2017
Estelle Bajou and Dan Grimaldi in the dance-lesson scene (the '67 Jag in background)
Two of the three human characters in Gino Diiorio’s “Jag,” world-premiering at New Jersey Repertory Company, are (in just-coined Latin) personi extremis. One, Leo “Chick” Chicarella, is a bigoted, foul-mouthed, ill-mannered lout. He’s also near-blind – or, as played by Dan Grimaldi, depending on the scene, sometimes near-blind. The other, Carla Carr, is a 78-RPM, ditzy cupie doll with a savant’s knowledge of vintage Jaguar motor cars. Estelle Bajou plays her as a blend of Rain Man and early-career Kristen Chenoweth. She’s rather endearing, although her spacey act wears thin. That they are both one-dimensional has more to do with the writing than the playing. The third character is Chick’s son, Donald “Bone” Chicarella, who acts as a relatively calming buffer between Chick and Carla; Christopher Daftsios plays him that way until Donald’s patience runs out. A pivotal father-son scene is gripping, even if overwrought.
The fourth presence in the play is its eponymous 1967 Jaguar around which the story revolves. An actual ’67 Jag was taken apart and re-assembled on designer Jessica Parks and prop woman Marisa Procopio’s authentic service station/body shop set. Co-owned by Chick and his son, the Jag is in need of refurbishment and engine repair, a job for which Carla is hired after she passes Chick’s auto-knowledge exam. (Cousin Vinny, anyone?) The younger man wants to accept a $20,000 offer for the car; his father wavers on that issue.
Late-in-play revelations preclude giving away too many plot details, but issues that are raised include why the son wants to sell, family-history denial, sibling- rivalry, disputed sexuality and a dance lesson in the garage. (That last is the play’s one charming interlude.) Scatological terms, homophobia and f-bombs proliferate throughout, which, in the close audience-to-stage quarters, are an assault on more than the ears. (One early-spoken unsavory phrase does re-appear in the play’s funniest line toward the end.)
At an intermissionless ninety minutes, “Jag” wraps up without too much dilly-dallying. The R-rated soap opera content may appeal to some theatergoers, but I, for one, was glad when it was over and I didn’t have to spend any more time with Leo “Chick” Chicarella.
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