No Parole

Rated 4.0

It’s common for a son to love and admire his mother. But what’s a guy to do when he realizes that his mom is a compulsive liar—a con artist who can’t control her urge to keep reinventing and reintroducing herself with a new name and a new scheme?

This is the situation—not quite a dilemma—facing Carlo D’Amore in his winning autobiographical show No Parole, which picked up an award from Bay Area critics last year and is now at the Sacramento Theatre Company.

D’Amore literally works up a sweat onstage. In just over an hour, he takes us from his boyhood in a Peruvian slum, through an arduous journey across several Central American countries, culminating in a visa that leads to an affluent life in the United States.

D’Amore plays himself, as well as his siblings, his father (a perennially absent Italian) and a landlord (subletting a rent-controlled apartment under very dodgy circumstances). But mostly, D’Amore plays his mother, an energetic woman who turns out to be a portfolio of inventive variations on a constantly opportunistic theme. She’s not malevolent, and she’s capable of genuinely maternal behavior. There’s an unflinching little scene involving tapeworms that will ring true with any parent whose toddler chewed the wrong stuff (think Tootsie Rolls) while playing in the sandbox.

But mostly, she’s a simmering kettle of bright ideas for easy ways to get rich quick. Schemes include: shoplifting (using her boys as lookouts and decoys), forging documents to an invented career as an immigration lawyer … there’s even a drug deal.

D’Amore also plays his mother before and after a stroke that leaves her with a drooping lip on one side, extending his range as performer even further. And all the while, there’s background noise from Spanish-language TV shows and pop music—which D’Amore occasionally takes time to explain for the benefit of monolingual Anglos.