What are youse lookin’ at?
New comedy at the Senator Theatre parodies both The Sopranos and The Twilight Zone
A pizza delivery person casually knocks on an innocuous-seeming door. “Pizza delivery!” she shouts. A stereotypical Italian-accented voice answers from behind the panel that he has something for the unsuspecting employee. The door opens just wide enough for a reddened fist to shove a gun out, swiftly pumping three rounds into the innocent.
What has just been described might at first seem horrific were it not for the palpably goofy ambiance permeating the activity. What has just been witnessed is the opening scene from the upcoming production of local entrepreneur DNA’s live onstage parody of HBO’s highly acclaimed series The Sopranos.
The cable TV program follows the somewhat less than honorable exploits of one Tony Soprano and depicts the accumulating effects his covertly criminal activities eventually have on his family and friends. Even Tony himself begins to see a shrink, but the sessions don’t seem to help him toward becoming a more responsible citizen.
For this live local parody, however, that basic premise has been deftly twisted in with strands from The Twilight Zone, creating The Zonepranos. DNA has assembled a crack cast of local actors to fill the diverse roles. Local comedian John Bertoli once again dons a black suit as Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling. Slim Barkowska fills the shoes of main character Tony Zoneprano, who is magically moved from the Eastern Seaboard to managing the Neal Road landfill south of Chico. Other notables include Betty Burns as Tony’s psychiatrist, Jocelyn Stringer as his wife and Elizabeth Kollings as his stripper girlfriend.
When asked why he chose to assemble a parody of The Sopranos, DNA quickly responds.
”The Sopranos is the most popular show ever and has also gained critical acclaim,” he states. “OK, nobody ever said Baywatch was genius. People are saying The Sopranos is genius.”
Asked why he thinks that is, DNA suggests that while most stories are morality plays because they feature a hero with a tragic flaw, The Sopranos is the complete opposite. “In The Sopranos the hero is the villain. You cannot say that Tony is a hero. And it’s an immorality play! You want his tragic flaw to be that he is nice, that there’s something nice about him. And that’s why you keep watching every week.”
Will they attempt to recreate the series’ sex and violence for the stage?
“The TV show doesn’t create sex and violence,” DNA points out. “It’s a reflection of what’s happening in a very violent society. What we’ve done in the play, in order to parody, we have to have sex and violence. But we’ve taken it to such an absurd extreme.”
It’s like Mad Magazine?
“Yeah, but more old Mad Magazine,” he says. “William Gaines’ [late original publisher of] Mad Magazine—they’d take these icons and twist them in such a way that you saw them in a new light. And that’s the power of parody in general—it can give you a new perspective.”
How is the show shaping up?
“When the light hits next Friday night, everyone is gonna shine,” DNA claims. “That is the beauty of the actors in this town, that we have such an incredible pool, a commonwealth of great talent. If you don’t come out on a Friday or a Saturday night to see this play, or any of the plays that are out there, but particularly The Zonepranos, you’re missing out on the great pool of talent we have.
“This is not a movie, it’s not one directional—this is interactive."