Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
"Gemini," a play of outrageous, wild comic invention, has brought playwright Albert Innaurato and Arena Stage together under a propitious sign for the next five weeks.
Arena's Kreeger Theater stage allows Innaurato's antic imagination to run free, and the cast of seven - with five new faces for Arena audiences - finds not only raucous humor but also human warmth in a script that could teeter over into caricature and disjointed farce if wrongly handled.
But under the frenetic action and the wacky characters of "Gemini" lies a serious vein. Innsurato can be very funny. He also can be sad, tender and understanding of those who feel themselves to be misfits in society, whether fat, sexually confused, growing old or different.
The action of "Gemini" takes place in the backyard of South Philadelphia's lower-middle-class Italian neighborhood. Francis, a poor but bright Harvard student, has come home for his 21st birthday. Two wealthy college friends - a sister and brother - surprise him on a visit and the embarrassed Francis tries to send them off.
But not before they meet the family and neighbors - Bunny, the blowsy woman next door; Herschel, her fat, asthmatic teen-age son who collects subway transfers; Lucille Pompi, the very proper mistress of Fran Geminiani, father of Francis.
It is an agonizing time for Francis, who may have bedded Judith but now feels he may be attracted to her younger brother, Randy.
This is the thread of the plot upon which hang some uproariously funny scenes with outbursts of anger, tenderness, misunderstandings, and zany idiosyncracies.
Director Douglas C. Wager doesn't allow zany antics to run away with the play and pulls togehter a performance that has a coherence of spirit and statement.
In this, he is helped by some remarkably fine performances from the cast. Leslie Cass, an Arena veteran, saves Bunny from being a cartoon character of funny one-liners. She can be moving as she observes that people can "mean well even if they are weird."
Dick Boccelli is splendid as the expansive Italian father. Underneath the gusto. he shows how such a man can be hurt in trying to understand his son. And Doris Belack gives the role of the father's prime mistress not only the laughs but also sympathy for a widow who, like an old sheet, has been "kept up and clean," but still shows it has been used.
The other members of the cast give excellent performances - Joshua Mostel, who makes much more than caricature of Bunny's looney son; Bill Randolph, who plays Randy with a charming air of surprised humor: Deborah Baltzeu as the sister; and Mel Shrawder, in the difficult role of Francis, the agonized young man afraid of being a homosexual.