Bloody Valentine:
A Review of Blood Type: Ragu

by Tony Phillips

Your gloss on Frank Ingrasciotta’s new, one-man show, Blood Type: Ragu, will largely depend on your Sopranos intake and how you feel about plastic-covered couches and hearing the word “manicotti” pronounced with Italo-American punch. Though I’m personally fond of all these things, and share not only Ingrasciotta’s heritage, but also his obvious relish of it, his Ragu felt slightly re-heated to me.

This briskly-paced, 90 minutes opens on a bare stage with just a single chair the frenetic Ingrasciotta doesn’t use much. His simple khakis and Chuck Taylor’s without laces suggest this is not a man who devotes much time to suiting up, but the simple video projections illustrating all this first generation American’s backing-and-forthing between Brooklyn and Sicily fare much better. Décor trumps wardrobe in one of the most successfully executed video backdrops I’ve seen. Perhaps these childlike renderings reflect where this technology is on the theatrical timeline, but it comes into its own here.

The intermission-less play, which purports to be about Ingrasciotta’s Brooklyn coming of age during the sixties, divides neatly into a first act that’s mainly mommy issues and a second act that deals with dad. There are some rare flights of poetry that are quite beautiful – a Sicilian funeral where Ingrasciotta finds his shirt “stained with the tears of everyone’s sadness” – but the second act delves into some scary domestic shit that makes Chris Brown and Rihanna look like Ward and June Cleaver.

Almost to spite Ragu’s dark underbelly, Igrasciotta comic timing is superb. He ups the manicotti factor by spinning a tale about his first taste of real ricotta in Sicily after a childhood of more American cheeses. It’s a story he’s probably been dining out off of for years and it’s a joy to watch him tell it. Ditto his story of trying to devirginize himself at the bordello immortalized in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, but his play suffers primarily from the same affliction Ingrasciotta attributes to the Sicilian bride he takes post-Chicken Ranch. She is “from the culture, but not of it.”