The Shoemaker

  • Our critic's rating:
    July 1, 2011

    Review by Tulis McCall

    Claptrap - I just looked up this word: “absurd or nonsensical talk or ideas” ORIGIN mid 18th cent (denoting something designed to elicit applause): from clap + trap. That about sums up this play!

    A shoe repair man, the Shoemaker Guiseppe, (Danny Aiello) is at the end of his day in Manhattan. He is listening to opera. A stranger, Hilary (Alma Cuervo) bangs on his door begging for help with her shoe that has a hole in the sole. She has just walked from downtown to Columbia and back. The Shoemaker explains he is closed. He even gets quite angry about it. Then, suddenly, he turns on a dime and starts baring his soul to the visitor, telling her about the shoes and the people who own them. About the shoes of the dead that he keeps in red show bags, the way he did for the shoes his father gave him before he sent the little boy and his mother to America. Guiseppe’s father stayed behind to take care of his own mother, and for this the Shoemaker has never forgiven him.

    All this we find out within minutes of Hilary’s entrance, which means this play starts late. What is the first scene would be better placed as the last scene. Aiello’s confession comes out of nowhere, and leaves us all puzzled as to why we are getting so much information from a man who wants only to be left alone?

    As the scene progresses, we discover that the date is 9/11/2001. This raises other questions – like why are the shades drawn to the outside world, and how is it that Guiseppe found a radio station that played opera on the day in question, and why do neither of the first act characters ask, “Are you okay?’ That was what we all asked – and I was living in L.A. at the time.

    With the shoe fixed, the two part ways, neither the worse for wear nor affected by the other.

    With Act Two we are given a flashback of Guiseppe’s most recently dead client, Louise, a small woman who wears high heels to give her stature in her job in the finance industry – in her office at the World Trade Center. This maudlin scene is slow and stultifying. Neither actor fares well, and we end up not caring about Louise in the way the author intended.

    Therefore, we end up unmoved by the enormous monologue that Aiello tackles as the play concludes. It is a diatribe on terrorism, the fate of the Jews, Guiseppe’s own feelings of being deserted by his father, his raw memory of his shoe clients lost and his recently discovered knowledge of how and to what camp his father was shipped. All of this is mixed up with his father’s voice (Michael Twaine) and Louise’s voice.

    This play is mishmash from beginning to end. It is poorly constructed, with direction that is flat and acting that is weak and unfounded. Even the set defies logic by placing the workroom of the shop on stage right, and then placing a black curtain in front of it.

    Ms Charlotte is a well-intentioned writer who needs the guidance of a dramaturge. She tries to fit so much into this script that the production collapses under the weight. She wants us to care about everything, and does not understand that audiences can only care about everything if they are fed the entirety one bite at a time.

    (Tulis McCall)

    "90 minutes of chest-thumping melodrama."
    Eric Grode for New York Times

    "Aiello's earnest but overwrought performance only accentuates the contrivances of his character."
    Frank Scheck for New York Post

    "A ramshackle little play about as sturdy as a pair of broken-heeled pumps."
    David Sheward for Back Stage

    "The piece remains void of any real plot."
    Peter Santilli for Associated Press

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Post - Back Stage - Associated Press