I am a huge fan of solo shows. Particularly autobiographical stories about worlds I have absolutely no experience of and probably never will. Louie Liberti’s “Almost Made” is a fascinating and hilarious example of exactly that. Set in the criminal underworld of the 80s, Louie’s world growing up in Yonkers, with a charismatic father who’s ‘almost’ in the mob. Hence the title of his show, “Almost Made,” as in, almost a made man, which is a full member of the mob.
His father will never be full accepted into the ‘family’ as his mother was jewish. If your’e not full Italian, then that’s just the way it goes I guess. At least in Yonkers. We meet the young Louie just before he comes of age. When he is at his most impressionable, compliant and still looks up to his father…before he really gets to know him and what he gets up to every night at work. All he knew about his father before this is that he was always working, he provided for his family very well and was respected. What he didn’t understand was that in Louie’s father’s world respect is often mistaken for fear and control and no matter how far up the food chain you get, you are always dispensable.
“Almost Made” is a wonderfully written show. Full of intricately worked anecdotes, stories within stories and a slow build to a powerful emotional conclusion. It flows beautifully, like “Goodfellas,” with incredible characters and no agenda or judgment and yet there is at its center, the breaking of a boy’s heart. It’s also very, very funny, with gorgeously wrought twists and turns, all play out with panache and poignancy by the writer and wonderful actor Louie Liberti. But what really got to me was the sadness of it.
Sure its a roller coaster ride through a moment in a life told with all the expertise of a truly excellent actor, but what Louie plays out on stage for us is his actual life. His memories are why he felt the need to create this play. He needed to share these pieces of himself somehow. As Louie’s eyes grow accustomed to the darkness of his fathers life he must adjust his expectations. Of his father, of the world around him and even of himself. He survives it, obviously, but not without heartbreak and disappointment. His father’s journey from that point became a long slow decent from the excitement of his ‘boss’ position and the heights of his power that summer when he took his son to work with him. It was a lesson well learned by Louie, but one I wish he could have avoided, no matter how brilliant a play he made of it.
And it is brilliant. Louie is a genius storyteller. He lures you in with his sweet bad’ish boy demeanour and then he takes you by surprise with the intensity of his boyish revelations.
As he portrays the child he once was finding out things about his father that he was perhaps far better off never knowing we feel his pain, his surprise and the depth of his heartache…although it is so subtly and sweetly unfolded. Like I said…a master at work.
“Almost Made” runs through October 25 at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks. If you love solo theatre even half as much as I do then you are really in for a treat! This is a wonderful story told with a tender and hilarious heart. Bravo!
Running through October 25.
13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423