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Cause Célèbre Presents "The Shoemaker" with Danny Aiello at Acorn Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights


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Cause Célèbre

The Shoemaker
(Cause Célèbre Website)

By Susan Charlotte
Directed by Antony Marsellis

Acorn Theatre
Theatre Row
(Theatre Row Website)
410 West 42nd Street

Danny Aiello
Alma Cuervo, Lucy DeVito
Michael Twaine

Producers: Danny Aiello &Susan Charlotte
Co-Producers: Louis Baldonieri & Mary Davis
Scenic Designer: Ray Klausen
Costume Design: Theresa Squire
Lighting and Sound: Bernie Dove
Costumes: David Toser
Production Stage Manager: Anita Ross
Stage Manager: C. Renee Alexander
Public Relations: Springer Associates PR
Marketing: Tracey Miller & Associates
Asst. to the Producer: Brendan Hill

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 28, 2011

Danny Aiello, whom I last saw at Blue Note, singing in his gig, is here an Italian Jew, who was nine in the 1940’s, during the War, when he made it to New York, at the same time that many close relatives did not. He’s a shoemaker, named Giuseppe, and he has an antiquated shop in Hell’s Kitchen. As it turns out, I have a shoemaker, also in Hell’s Kitchen, and his shop is ultra-ramshackle in comparison to Giuseppe’s, which dates to 2001, when the play takes place. Giuseppe has a short fuse, but if he’s engaged in conversation by a pretty damsel in shoe distress, he takes an eager interest in her life. His radio, which looks like a heavy, wooden 1940’s tabletop, announces in scratchy bulletins that the Towers have been hit. Here’s where the drama ensues.

Toward the beginning of this new two-act play by Susan Charlotte, and produced by both Ms. Charlotte and Mr. Aiello, Hilary (Alma Cuervo) stumbles in with a hole in her sole. (first metaphor). After much expression of Giuseppe’s angst, after much lending of Hilary’s shoulder to his rants about his busyness and his anxiety about a young woman who never retrieved her high heels, Giuseppe relents and repairs the shoe. Sirens can be heard, and Giuseppe wanders into dreams and remembrances about his family in Italy, as they were taken to the camps. An offstage voice (Michael Twaine) is meant to be Giuseppe’s father, with a thick Italian accent. Hilary listens intently, and they share news of the World Trade Center attack.

In Act II (and in the final moments of Act I), Louise (Lucy DeVito, who bears a close resemblance to her famous parents) arrives to retrieve her shoes. She works in the Towers, but somehow time stands still, as Giuseppe and Louise chat about the Holocaust, a catharsis Giuseppe desperately needs. This is meant to be the dreamlike, surreal segment of the play, perhaps just as the Towers are falling, like temporarily cheating the angel of death. When Louise leaves, because Giuseppe had placed her shoes into a red velvet sack, then Giuseppe hears the news and sirens all over again. Ms. Charlotte and Mr. Aiello collaborated on the storyline and communicated on dialogue and literary changes throughout the creation of the book (as the audience was informed in the after-show talkback). The small cast and vivid set expanded the poignancy of the narrative.

Mr. Aiello, throughout, speaks either in a whisper or a wail, with sensitivity, earnestness, and reverence for the historical roots of the scenario. He bends over with the pain of decades of grief, longing for the family he left behind. He’s also weighted with the pain of anticipated grief, longing for a way to turn back the clock, knowing his sprightly customer will disappear in the impending downtown attack. He kept imagining her, walking in the tall heels he had repaired, a woman who wanted more height (another metaphor), as she worked at the peak of the Towers. Alma Cuervo was persuasive as Hilary, the professor, the damsel in distress, and Lucy DeVito was charming and captivating as Louise, the woman for whom fate had plans. Michael Twaine, as Giuseppe’s father, the Offstage Voice, was compelling in his historical dialogue.

Ray Klausen’s set (which doubles with another play) is outstanding, with the door that opens to screaming fire engines and the neat shelves of shoes, tools, and memorabilia. There are even umbrellas hanging, just like in my shoemaker’s shop, for customers in need on a rainy day. David Toser’s costumes accentuate the personalities of the two women, scholarly (Hilary) and sharp (Louise). Giuseppe has the shoemaker’s apron, and his clothes wrinkle with wear. Bernie Dove’s lighting and sound allow bits of light to enter the shop, on that sunny September morning, plus whispers to resound and sirens to penetrate. This new production company, Cause Célèbre, an offshoot of Food for Thought Productions, is a “not-for-profit theatre devoted to fostering …understanding of psychological, physical and social issues through drama”. Audience receptions and talkbacks are part of the structure, and numerous charitable causes are benefited and involved. Kudos to Cause Célèbre.

Danny Aiello and Alma Cuervo
in Susan Charlotte's "The Shoemaker"
Courtesy of Ben Hider

Danny Aiello and Lucy DeVito
in Susan Charlotte's "The Shoemaker"
Courtesy of Ben Hider

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at