In William Mastrosimone’s intergenerational heart-warmer A Stone Carver, father knows best. Or rather, a certain Italian American patriarch is never, ever wrong. You no agree? What the hell you know, eh? Old Agostino (a fine Dan Lauria) is determined to live out his widowerhood in the stone house he built for his family. But the city is threatening to bulldoze it to construct a highway. The codger has withstood a lot in his life, but to give up his beloved house? Brutta bestia!
So Agostino hunkers down, ignoring the pleas from his visiting son Raff (Jim Iorio).A Stone Carver plays out as an emotional boxing match between padre and figlio. (An actual fistfight serves as climax.) Agostino insults his son’s choices in career and women; Raff counters with childhood tales of paternal cruelty. The familial antagonism flies fast, and the dialogue by Mastrosimone (best known for Extremities) exacts deep scars.
If the play’s family-healing conclusion feels like a cop-out, the precision with which Mastrosimone evokes generational resentment is hard to forget.
Those who grew up with immigrant parents will recognize the power that a few well-timed words in bad English can inflict on the self-esteem.
As Agostino, the masterful Lauria convinces us that this power is never off-limits, even as his cuddle bear within vanquishes his outer ogre.