‘Great Kills’ Dramatizes Big-Time Aspirations of Small-Timers in Staten Island

“Great Kills” by Tom Diriwachter is a darkly comic tale of a get-rich-quick scheme in Staten Island that goes awry. The play dramatizes the big-time aspirations of small-timers in Staten Island, who would pierce the toni antiques market with salvage from a decommissioned hospital there.

An aging workman named Mr. G (Joe Pantoliano) has spent his lifetime helping to maintain a psychiatric hospital in Staten Island. Now, after a ten-year controversy over neglect of patients at the institution, it is finally shutting down. Its furniture – “the kind of stuff you find in a doctor’s office” – is lying abandoned in a nearby field.

The prospect of selling the stuff for a quick score proves irresistible to his ne’er-do-well son, Tim (Bob Homeyer), who’s living at home after losing his position as an adjunct professor of literature. To finance the plan, Tim recruits his estranged childhood friend, restaurateur, Robert (Peter Welch).

What ensues is a drunken evening of scheming and betrayal in which the plan becomes less real, the men’s desperate realities become more apparent and a devastating family secret is revealed.

tree characters
LR): Peter Welch, Joe Pantoliano (foreground), Robert Homeyer. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Playwright Tom Diriwachter is a lifelong resident of Staten Island and much of his writing is set in that borough, featuring situations that can be crafted from living across the harbor from Manhattan. “Great Kills” was workshopped last season in Theater for the New City’s New City, New Blood reading series. Its opening scene was previously presented in TNC’s Lower East Side Festival of the Arts (LES).

The play will be staged in a two-room set by Mark Marcante consisting of the living room and kitchen of a working class home, in disrepair and overrun with stacks of books. Lighting design is by Alexander Bartenieff.

Tom Diriwachter is author of five full-length plays and many one-act plays over a decade-plus career, working with Theater for the New City, The American Theater of Actors, Horse Trade Theater Group, Pulse Ensemble Theatre, The Riant Theatre, Love Creek Productions, Personal Space Theatrics, Theater Studio, Inc., Penguin Repertory Theater, and West Coast Ensemble, and independently producing at KGB’s Red Room Theatre, Theatre 22, and the Greenwich Street Theatre. His plays have been produced in festivals including the Chrysalis Festival, Strawberry Festival, the Turnip Festival, The Drafts Fest, and TNC’s Lower East Side Festival of the Arts (LES). His full-length play, “Asterisk,” was archived by The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, and published by Indie Theater Now, which is also publishing a collection of his one-act plays. His non-fiction is published regularly on Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood. He publishes a blog named Tage Door. He writes, “I am grateful to Theater for the New City and Artistic Director Crystal Field for producing ‘Great Kills,’ and for their unerring support of emerging playwrights, fostering artistic integrity in an atmosphere that encourages passion, and allows for risk.”

Joe Pantoliano (Mr. G) is known for his work in many modern day classic films including “Risky Business,” “The Goonies,” “La Bamba,” “The Matrix” and “Memento.” His plays include the world premieres of “Orphans” by Lyle Kessler (LA Drama Critics Circle Nomination & Drama Loge Award for Best Actor ), “Italian American Reconciliation,” written and directed by John Patrick Shanley (Drama Logue Best Actor Award) and Broadway’s “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” by Terence Mc Nally (opposite Rosie Perez, directed by Joe Mantello).

Pantoliano produced and starred in Joe Greco’s thought-provoking feature “Canvas” opposite Marcia Gay Harden, winning him many awards including the Outstanding Actor Award at the Sedona International Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale Film Festival and Roger Ebert’s Annual Film Festival. He portrayed the eccentric mobster Ralphie Cifaretto in HBO’s “The Sopranos,” which netted him a Best-Supporting Actor Emmy in 2003. His next TV appearance will be the new Netflix sci-fi series, “Sense8,” co-written and co-directed by “The Matrix” trilogy creators Andy and Lana Wachowski.

Pantoliano wrote and published the New York Times bestseller “Who’s Sorry Now: The True Story of a Stand-Up Guy” (Dutton), a bittersweet memoir about growing up in an Italian-American family in New Jersey, and the sequel “Asylum: My Hollywood Tales through the Great Depression” (Weinstein Books). He is also a prolific voice in audiobooks.

Inspired by his role in “Canvas,” Pantoliano started a non-profit organization, No Kidding, Me Too!, to expose the stigmas and discrimination associated with Brain Disease (www.nkm2.org). He will receive the American Psychiatric Association President’s Award this May in Toronto for his award winning documentary, “No Kidding Me 2!.”

Peter Welch (Robert) is an actor, playwright, filmmaker and award winning fine art photographer. He has appeared in “The Fugitive Chronicles” for A&E, “Gossip Girl,” “Law & Order,” “A Bike Ride” (Cannes Film Festival) and many small plays and indie films. His writing and directorial work has been seen at The Players Theater, Here Arts Center, The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, La MaMa and Theater for the New City. His short film, “The Piles Project,” featured downtown luminary Taylor Mead and art-world phenom Mark Kostabi and screened at TNC as part of the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts in 2013. His feature film, “Three Long Years,” was distributed internationally and is now available on ITUNES. He recently directed an experimental film, “Hard Drive,” featuring Elodie Bouchez. He has had two full-length plays produced in New York, “Two Alone/Too Together” and “Don’t Tell Mother.” His photographic work was recognized by the 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 International Photography Awards and the 2006 Palm Springs Photo Festival.

Robert Homeyer (Tim) has been writing, directing and acting in New York theater for the past six years. He wrote and directed “Three of a Kind with Two Wild Cards” and “Christopher Marlowe’s Julius Caesar,” in which he also performed the roles of Marlowe and Cassius. He co-starred in “The Accidental Hamlet” and The Marx Brothers revival “I’ll Say She Is,” both presented by FringeNYC. At Theater for the New City, he has performed in several of the musicals written by Tom Attea and Arthur Abrams, including “Living in a Musical,” “The Capitalist Ventriloquist,” “Digital Dilemmas,” and this season’s “An American Worker.” He was featured in Barbara Kahn’s “Crossing Paths in Washington Square” and Claudio Angelini’s “My Wife in a Chador,” and is also a veteran of TNC’s Summer Street Theater. He appears annually as Bob Cratchit in “A Christmas Carol,” written and directed by David Zen Mansley at TNC. He appeared with Peter Welch in “Age Out” by Tom Diriwachter and on the CBS-TV show “Blue Bloods.” (www.bobhomeyer.com)

Jonathan Weber (Director) has directed prolifically at TNC, where his credits include “Two Alone/Too Together” by Peter Welch and four plays by Tom Diriwachter, “Age Out,” “Guaranteed to Never Lose Suction,” “Shock Therapy” and “Bear!” He has also directed two plays by Oliver Thrun and six plays by Walter Corwin. He has written two plays, “9J” and “The Red Sox Monologues.” Other credits include “Sister Mary Ignacius Explains it all For You,” “Life Under Water” and “Pvt. Wars.” For 11 years, he was an Assistant Director for TNC’s Award-Winning Summer Street Theater tour. A graduate of Binghamton University, he was Administrative Director at TNC for many years, and serves on the planning committes for TNC’s Love N’ Courage Benefit and The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts. He is the author of the popular New York Mets blog, “The Ballclub” (theballclub.blogspot.com).

Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave., NYC will present “Great Kills” March 26 to April 12, 2015. Performance are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sunday at 3:00 PM. Tickets are $20 general admission. Added performances are Wednesdays, 4/1 and 4/8 at 8:00 PM, in whcih you can pay what you can.

The box office number is 212-254-1109 and tickets can be purchased online at www.theaterforthenewcity.net. The show runs 90 minutes.

Jonathan Slaff writes on cultural events from the brainy, the edgy and the good. He helps us keep ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.