Playwright Louis LaRusso II has paid homage to his hometown of Hoboken, NJ, over the years by setting his 26 plays in the gritty city across the Hudson River. On Nov. 11, Hoboken returns the favor by offering tribute to its theatrical chronicler.
Hoboken Mayor Anthony Russo will honor LaRusso, 63, at a special ceremony 11 AM Nov. 11 at City Hall in Hoboken. A proclamation will state: "Louis LaRusso is known throughout Hoboken for his love of all that is Hoboken, and he is respected by those who truly remember 'the good old days,' as accurately portrayed in his plays."
The ceremony coincides with the Off-Broadway opening of LaRusso's Sweatshop Nov. 11 at the American Theatre of Actors Chernuchin Theatre, 314 W. 54th St., in Manhattan. Janet Sarno stars in the open ended run of the drama about women workers in a sewing machine shop in 1958 Hoboken.
Stage, film and TV actress Sarno appeared in LaRusso's Knockout on Broadway opposite Danny Aiello in the 1978-79 season, and in a handful of other LaRusso works.
LaRusso, who lives in Hoboken, has set his 26 "Hoboken Plays" in periods spanning the entire 20th century, from 1900 (Beginnings) to 1995 (The Turkey). It's not uncommon for playwrights to stick with a certain milieu: As LaRusso writes about people in the small, industrial city of Hoboken, so Horton Foote's territory is Texas, Neil Simon's world is New York City, David Mamet's is Chicago and August Wilson has written several plays set in African-American communities in Pittsburgh. LaRusso's best-known "Hoboken Play" may be Lamppost Reunion, about a Sinatra-like figure returning to his hometown neighborhood bar in 1974. It ran on Broadway in the 1975-76 season, earning 1976 Tony Award nominations for Best Play and Best Supporting Actor (Gabriel Dell).
Other Hoboken-set works include Marlon Brando Sat Right Here (OB, 1979-80), Momma's Little Angels (OB, 1978-79) and The Black Marble Shoe Shine Stand (OOB, Sept.-Oct. 1998). His Wheelbarrow Closers (set in Englewood, NJ) played Broadway in the 1976-77 season and was made into the film "The Closer." He also contributed to the books of the musicals Dreamgirls and Platinum. In 1983, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting work, but returned to Hoboken.
Directed by LaRusso, the Sweatshop cast includes Dan Grimaldi, George Pollock, Emeline Aleandri, Andrea DeVaynes, Kathleen Marsh, Martina Vidmar, Anna Mastonianni, Lyn Merritt, Marie DeCicco, Hershey Miller and Jane Culley.
Designers for Sweatshop are Keith Burns (sets), Michael Yetter (lighting) and Joseph Cassini (costumes). The grim set includes 10 working sewing machines. Producers are Del Jack and Peter Petrosino.
Tickets for Sweatshop are $24-$35. For information, call (212) 279-4200 or (212) 581-3004.
-- By Kenneth Jones