On Nov. 2, 6 and 7, the Theater and Dance Department and the Drew University Dramatic Society put on performances of “Tony Ricci Has Acid Reflux,” a play written by Erin Groudis-Gimbel (‘22) and directed by Holly Stefanik (‘22).
The play is a dark comedy featuring lots of laughs and equally as many shocking moments.
The plot centers around failing Jewish comedian Harold Stein, played by Jordan Weisblatt (‘25), who is drawn into the world of the Italian mob by Tony Ricci, played by Donny Gaynor (‘24). The two meet at a bar owned by Vinny Ricci, played by Joey Best (‘24).
The play also features Dylan McCormick (‘24) as Meyer Rose, Tony’s right-hand man, and Kristie Andino (‘25) as Tony’s wife Maria.
It follows Harold’s humble beginnings performing at Vinny’s bar, his dangerous association with Tony and the mafia, his escape from mob life and untimely death.
Sage Lidzbarski-Lahti (‘23) said, “I thought it was a really fun twist on the classic mob, mafia story, and I loved the fact that it was following a comedian.”
The play featured great interactions between various characters, each having their own eccentricities, from the deadpan Meyer to the nervy Harold. A particularly compelling character was the oft-inebriated Vinny, Tony’s nephew who ran one of his bars. Vinny consistently warns Harold of the dangers of his actions and acts as a grounding mechanism for him, but has his own character arc where his motivations are revealed.
Playgoer Bryce Brittingham (‘23) said Harold acted “as a sort of court jester to Tony Ricci.”
“Originally he did not have [a character arc] and only served as a tool to move the story on,” Best said, on his character. “The more we worked on him we discovered new ways to flesh out his backstory by giving him a relationship to alcohol and exploring the death of his parents in the business.”
Since this play was in different stages of development, the script and each performance throughout the week was improved due to audience feedback.
Following the play’s conclusion there was a segment in which the writer and the audience asked each other questions.
Playwright Groudis-Gimbel said, “That part of the process was really helpful for me as a writer because it forced me to be consistently flexible.”
Overall “Tony Ricci Has Acid Reflux” was a thoroughly enjoyable show to watch, and getting a glimpse of a play’s developmental process was engrossing and unique.