‘Participant’: One-man show that leaves audiences out
Momentum lost in heavy-handedness
By Jennifer Richmond
Daily Bruin Senior Staff
Chazz Palminteri may be co-producing Dayton Callie’s "The
Participant," but there’s no evidence of his influence in the
acting or writing of the play.
Unlike Palminteri’s intriguing "A Bronx Tale," which he wrote
and starred in, "The Participant" drags, is full of clichÃ©s
and goes nowhere from the start.
Well, maybe not nowhere. It takes Callie (the show’s one and
only actor) on a trip through his life as he discovers that being
tough and fighting everyone doesn’t get you anywhere. It leaves you
alone and hating yourself.
Callie starts the show wonderfully with a solo on his soprano
sax. It calms and soothes you and then you’re hit by his New York
accent telling God to turn off the spotlight so he can have some
This alarming switch is perfect for the rest of the production,
which goes from one sudden turn to another. Some are good and some
are just plain bad. And while all have a point, like life, some
points aren’t needed, especially when they drag on and on with no
end in sight.
When Callie rants about being a tough guy and how he always
learned to just keep taking the blows in order "to be the best,”
the lesson is good the first two or three times; after that, it
gets tiresome and terribly redundant.
The few spots that keep interest are Callie’s stories. As soon
as he gets into one of his memories Â like the fight with Big
Betty when he was in elementary school or the fight with the three
men in the bar after he’d been married and divorced Â these
stories really hit home and prove Callie’s point: Fighting is never
These scenes let Callie to show the type of person he is and the
values with which he was raised.
These few moments of sensitivity suck us back in. Callie knows
he’s made some serious errors. He knows he could put his life back
together if he had a second chance.
But just as he hits home with some deep thought, he throws a
quick left, grabs his crotch and moans in pain as if he’s been shot
with fire for saying something bad in the presence of his
Sudden switches like this disrupt the momentum of the
production, leaving the audience in the lurch, unsure of what
they’re supposed to be feeling at that point in the drama.
While the idea behind the drama is great and has a few gem
scenes, the entire production needs to be retooled so that it goes
from point A to Z without skipping C through Y. Unfortunately,
there are too many times in this production where things just don’t
make any sense.
Callie proves with "Participant" that while
stream-of-consciousness may work in literature, it doesn’t on
STAGE: "The Participant." Written and Starring Dayton Callie.
Directed by Jana Robbins. Co-produced by Chazz Palminteri. Running
through May 23 at Theater Geo. Performing Monday and Tuesday at 8
p.m. TIX: $15. For more info call (213) 466-1767.