Jay (T. Anthony Marotta) is a troubled man. He’s been dreaming of Al Capone and wants to take down the mafia. Unfortunately, he himself is a mob hitman and he and his long-time partner Tee (Ray Paolino) are about to introduce a man in a sack to the bottom of a river.
The overall effect is that of a black comedy that is neither funny nor dark enough to be truly effective.
So begins Mafia on Prozac, Edward Allan Baker’s noisy yet philosophical black comedy that never quite lives up to the promise of its title. The premise is strong: a classic double-act reimagined Mafioso-style on a Rhode Island pier. Jay is exuberant, loud and constantly in motion; Tee is calmer, more introspective and doesn’t have time for Jay’s “fruity notions”. They bicker like a married couple and Marotta and Paolino clearly have a ball as the best friends who are forced to re-evaluate what they do. Michael Stille as Matt – the man in the sack – also gives it his all and makes the most of the humour as well as the more serious sections. It is at these more philosophical points that Baker is at his best and there are some thought-provoking moments about fate, decision-making, who digs the grave we lie down in and what, amidst all of that, the role of friendship is.
This is offset by the humour, which misses more often than it hits. At times it comes tantalisingly close to a pastiche of the old-school mob classics: Jay’s triplets are called Frank, Frankie and Francis and both The Godfather and Goodfellas are referenced throughout. Baker, however, is clearly too much of a fan of the genre to send it up completely and often has to resort to cheap knob gags in pursuit of laughs. Consequently, the hitmen never seem that dangerous – they’re too busy making fun of how old they are to be threatening – and any deeper thoughts that they espouse run the risk of being lost beneath the banter.
The overall effect is that of a black comedy that is neither funny nor dark enough to be truly effective. The performers give it everything and Barry Pearson’s direction is tight and focussed, but ultimately Mafia on Prozac falls just short of the standards it sets for itself.