Review: `No Parole’

Nov 22

Carlo D’Amore plays himself, his mother, members of his family and assorted other characters in his one-man show No Parole at The Marsh in San Francisco. Photo by Rudy Meyers

It’s a laugh sentence in D’Amore’s arresting `No Parole’
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Decked out in his glittery, color-splattered Ed Hardy shirt, Carlo D’Amore is a little like animation come to life in his energetic solo show No Parole now at The Marsh in San Francisco. And that’s a good thing when you need to command a stage for 80 minutes or so.

D’Amore has no problem endearing himself to his audience. He bounces around the stage, switches characters with instant flair and tells a humor-laced story that ends up being quite moving.

The topic, not surprisingly, is family. We’ve all got one and we’ve all got the related issues.

But hand it to D’Amore – his issues are on a grand, international, even criminal scale.

If “No Parole” weren’t so darned entertaining and if D’Amore weren’t so charming, his life story could be downright depressing.

Born in Peru to a Peruvian mother and an Italian father, D’Amore grew up in the shadow of his eccentric, attention-starved mother who had a talent for con-artistry. Clearly the acting gene runs in the D’Amore family, and while Carlo has channeled his into the more legit forms of stage and screen, his mother, whose name varied depending on the con – Angelica, Tina, Gina, Coco – invested hers in scheming, manipulating and money making.

The family headed north to the U.S. , entered illegally (acting was involved) and once settled, Mama D’Amore really went to town on the scams. For a while she was even a highly successful immigration attorney who scored green cards for hundreds of migrant workers.

She was, not, however, flawless in her approach and ended up in prison. Once out, she resumed her schemes, and as angry victims and the law began closing in on her, she suffered a debilitating stroke and ended up living with her son in his illegally sublet studio in New York’s Lower East Side.

This is the meat of D’Amore’s show, his coming to terms with the mother he loves – “To me, my mother is the best mother in the world,” he says – while taking care of her and foiling more of her scams.

Early parts of the show, detailing a tumultuous childhood, come across as comic reflections, but the show, directed by Margarett Perry, really gains traction when it becomes an outright drama and D’Amore finds himself making bold, serious choices in the way he deals with this woman, his mother, who has some sort of pathological need to lie, manipulate and scam.

Throughout the show, he offers life lessons his mother imparted to him such as “People believe what you make them believe.” But in the more dramatic portion of the evening, the lesson “Hurt those who hurt you” takes on some significant emotional weight.

There’s a lot of pain masked by humor in No Parole, and it might make for a more potent show if D’Amore trusted his dramatic power a little more and didn’t try so hard to make this reminiscence quite so palatable for his audience. He’s such a likeable guy we’d go pretty much anywhere with him.

It’s the darkness more than the light that lingers after No Parole concludes, although D’Amore’s optimism and resilience resonates. How did he survive his family with a sense of humor and a sense of self intact?

“Hopefully you learn to forgive them as much as you can.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

No Parole continues through Dec. 13 at The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., San Francisco. Tickets are $15-$35. Call 800-838-3006 or visit www.themarsh.org.

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