The Mutilated and Gaetana's Cucina Italiana

Mink Stole, Cosmin Chivu and Penny Arcade
A rediscovered Tennessee Williams play is being presented in such a way that you wish you knew it your whole life. How to explain why it was shelved since 1966? “Maybe it’s the name,” said Thomas Keith, one of the producers. The Mutilated, more decadent than Williams’ other plays, is surprisingly cathartic. Like a good movie that goes by too fast, you want to watch it again immediately. Attractive denizens of the Boheme bar in the French Quarter hotel become a chorus. A jazz band sounds superb. It’s Christmas Eve, 1940.

Mink Stole plays elegant Trinket Dugan, who has a secret apart from her clandestine drinking. The only one who knows the secret is Celeste Delacroix Griffin, her former best friend and a total loose canon. Trinket is a recognizable Williams character. Celeste is someone we haven’t met before. She claims to have partied with Huey Long, though she was just released from jail: “Nothing like a week in the pokey to bring out the philosopher in me.” It’s hard to tell whether Mink Stole and Penny Arcade do justice to roles they are more or less inventing, but they are lovable at it and experts in telling a juicy story.

In a classic scene Celeste asks Trinket for a vanilla wafer, and Trinket gets the tin from the kitchen only to open it and discover a roach. As she’s about to toss it out, Celeste takes the tin, removes a giant roach, flings it into the audience, then hungrily eats a wafer. “But you are eating after a roach!” cries Trinket. “People in the best restaurants eat after roaches,” Celeste says, having another cookie.

Trinket and Celeste are indomitable and describe themselves as such from the beginning. The self-assessments bode well and take us past a potentially scary scene with a red-headed sailor. This Williams story is about estranged friends who finally get back together, one of them “mutilated” by a mastectomy. (No spoiler, it’s revealed early on.) Later, she is visited by black-hooded Death—but when he sees how well she’s doing, he decides to stay away for a while longer.

This smartly conceived production with amazing actors and music, and even great costumes (Angela Wendt), is directed by Cosmin Chivu, who specializes in late Tennessee Williams. Well-timed for the holidays, The Mutilated could move straight to Broadway.  

Bespoke Penne a la Vodka at Gaetana's
In its Greenwich Village location, the New Ohio Theatre has two lovely historic restaurants right across the street. Malatesta and Gaetana’s like each other, because both are so popular that they have no need to compete.

The night we were at family-run Sicilian Gaetana’s after The Mutilated we sat at the long bar and chatted with friendly diners who are regulars. One person’s order of bubbling hot Penne a la Vodka caused a chain reaction, with requests honored for variations such as bacon, sausage, meat balls. Heaping green salads, homemade bread and pastas, a brick oven in the kitchen. 

Matriarch Gaetana, whose recipes are used, was married to a man who worked at Jilly’s on West 52nd Street—Frank Sinatra’s favorite boîte. Sinatra portraits and memorabilia are part of the décor. He becomes so familiar that you expect him to walk in the door.