Directing together comes naturally for Larry Pizza and Kim Cassetta, whose next show, In-Laws, Outlaws, and Other People (That Should be Shot), premieres at the Old Bedford Town Hall. Of course, Pizza said, it helps that they get along so well.
“It’s like our marriage,” Pizza said shortly before the Bedford Off Broadway production rehearsal last Monday evening. They sat alongside one another on a pair of folding metal chairs while the cast slowly trickled in. “I just nod and say, ‘Yes dear.’”
Joking aside, the pair really do love working together because their teamwork adds dimension to a show.
“We’re of two different minds, and we have different strengths,” Cassetta said. “And it’s nice to have a colleague who can show you different ways to get to the same place.”
This co-direction will be key in In-Laws, Outlaws, and Other People (That Should be Shot), which premieres on Friday, Nov. 8, at the Old Bedford Town Hall. The show, written by Steve Franco, concerns a family get-together during the holidays.
Pizza and Cassetta think most audience members will find their own families onstage, maybe in the hopelessly sarcastic Dad or in his equally sarcastic, overdramatic teenage daughter Beth. Or perhaps they’ll relate more to crotchety old Aunt Rose and Uncle Leo. They may even catch sight of their nosy neighbor, who in this play is Mrs. Draper.
The only difference between this family gathering and your own (hopefully) is that this Christmas get-together features two outsiders: two dumb burglars names Tony and Vinny who, after robbing a neighborhood liquor store, crash the holiday party and decide they’re going to take the Douglas family “hostage.”
After a few hours, it becomes questionable who’s keeping whom hostage.
Part of the humor, said actor John Decareau, is that this family is so wacky (and frankly, so annoying) that it drives the criminals Tony and Vinny nuts. Decareau plays Tony.
“He’s losing control. Actually, he never gets control over them. He loses his mind because the family is so crazy. But I think people can relate to that,” Decareau said.
The trick in making the story come together, said Pizza, is balance.
“This play could easily be a show of caricatures,” Pizza said.
Most of the personalities are over-the-top, Pizza said, but while it’s funny, the play isn’t meant to be farcical or slapstick. There’s a deep emotional element that needs to come through.
The way to get past that “caricature” place, he said, is to work until the show becomes conversational. (During this rehearsal, actors were “off-book,” which means they weren’t allowed any notes, lines or books.)
Because of the nature of the play, nearly all 14 cast members will be onstage at once. As such, Bedford Off-Broadway installed a small stage alongside the mainstage in the old town hall, which will allow room for the entire family (and hostage) gathering.
“Actors like this setup because it allows for a lot more movement,” Pizza said. “Otherwise, there’s potential for a lot of standing around.”
One of those actors is Kathy Aiello, who plays Beth, a sarcastic teenager who’s much too cool for her crazy family.
“I love the build. It starts small, with just a few people onstage, and slowly, more and more people come in,” Aiello said. “Larry and Kim tell us to remember, to think about how it is with our own families,” she said.
They also like it because it’s so funny; Joe Pelonzi, artistic director of Bedford Off Broadway, who plays Dad, brought In-Laws, Outlaws, and Other People to the board because it’s one of the few holiday shows that’s heartfelt but not in a cheesy, “cookie cutter” kind of way.
“I like bringing audiences shows that they haven’t seen before. I thought this show fitted the venue perfectly,” Pelonzi said. “It’s family-friendly but not in a bubble-gummy way.”
There’s also, apparently, a huge plot twist that nobody at rehearsals would talk about. The wanted audiences to come and be surprised.
“We really love the message. It’s seasonal, and even just reading the show caused me to tear up,” Cassetta said. “There’s a big emotional element to the story … and it’s not what you expect it to be. I think it’s a nice way to start the holiday season.”