nytheatre.com review by Mel House
August 21, 2012
Lights rise on a baseball player. Maybe. A handsome blond man in full baseball regalia stares out at us with terror. He's in a batting stance…sort of. Growing up in the rough-and-tumble world of Queens, New York, surrounded by folks who shared the views of Archie Bunker, childhood for Vincent James Arcuri was an adventure. And not always the fun kind. Born with curly blond locks, a sibilant "s" and ambitions to be "just like Gary Coleman," this son of a Catholic construction worker and stay-at-home Mom didn't fit in. He didn't like building stuff or baseball!
In his delightfully funny and touching one-man show, Becoming Butch, Arcuri introduces us to a colorful cast of characters that shaped his four decades between Queens, New York, and West Hollywood, Los Angeles. We meet the family, bullies, teachers, lovers and friends, who all have opinions about what it means to be a man and just how Arcuri should achieve this. In a heartbreakingly funny episode, we meet his demanding and demeaning speech teacher. It's a painful reminder of how much "socializing" we all endure on the road to becoming our "best" selves.
His story is tight, well structured, smartly written and effectively presented. He touches on serious events with a levity that makes them more potent and keeps us hanging on his every word. He's so charming. Yet, Arcuri is also capable of pulling back the curtain and being completely vulnerable in sincere and well-chosen moments. The result: I laughed, I cried, I snortled.
Directed by Gary Riotto, this sixty-minute story is well staged and perfectly paced. The use of slides, music and lighting (run by Justin Cornell) enhances the overall storytelling and drives the piece forward. Arcuri shows us the life of a real man—one who lives honestly, openly and with integrity. In this particular story of Arcuri's life, we get the universal story of finding one's own voice, self-acceptance and love. It's also a surprisingly touching tribute to his family and to the power of love to open minds and hearts.
I'm so glad to see this baseball player come home.