The city of Hoboken has already honored playwright Louis LaRusso II, for his stage chronicles of the New Jersey city, and now the Guild of Italian American Actors will present a citation to the Italian-American writer.
On Dec. 10, after the performance of his Sweatshop at the American Theatre of Actors (314 W. 54th St.), the Guild will recognize LaRusso's for his "outstanding achievement as an Italian American playwright, director and screenwriter." Presenters will include GIAA national president Paul Borghese, vice presidents Lea Serra and Malika Borghese and Sweatshop actresses Emelise Aleandri and Dolores Sirianni.
The Guild is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO and a branch of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America. It was founded in 1937 by Antonio Maiori as the Italian Actors Union, to assist performers in securing fair contracts. It also preserves history and awareness among its members.
LaRusso, 63, who lives in Hoboken, has set his 26 "Hoboken Plays" in periods spanning the entire 20th century, from 1900 (Beginnings) to 1995 (The Turkey). A millennial play, Endings, is in the works.
It's not uncommon for playwrights to stick with a certain milieu: As LaRusso writes about Italian Americans, Jews and Irish 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).
LaRusso has paid homage to his hometown over the years by setting his 26 plays in the gritty city across the Hudson River. On Nov. 11, Hoboken returned the favor by offering tribute to its theatrical chronicler.
Hoboken Mayor Anthony Russo honored LaRusso, at a special ceremony 11 AM Nov. 11 at City Hall in Hoboken. A stated: "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 coincided 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.
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<