New theater production offers a slice of Bronx life

Actress Katherine Mesa shows off “Can’noli Happen Again” promotional posters as Mike Greco of Mike’s Deli looks on in support. - Photo courtesy of Pasta Pigskin Productions

Bronx director Joe Mileto is back with another theater production hitting the Manhattan stage, bringing a slice of Bronx life to the masses.

His fourth production in three years, this year’s “Can’noli Happen Again,” will be bigger than any of his shows to date, with a run of 14 shows in two weeks, from June 17-29 inside the 120-seat Producers Club Theaters, at 358 W. 44th Street.

The show features six skits, including a day at a Yankee game, an Italian American Sunday family dinner akin to Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and other Bronx-inspired scenes. 

To help make this years performances a reality, the Pigskin & Pasta Productions founder was happy to bring on William Lappe as executive producer this year.

Lappe directed the film Bronx Paradise, shot entirely in the borough, and brings a great deal of promotion experience to the team.

Every year, more and more patrons have come out from the show. 

“They come with four people, then the next year its 10,” Mileto said.  “They’ll say, ‘lets bring another couple;’ they grew up in the Bronx, and understand the comedy.”

Mileto confirms that much of the audience draws from the suburbs, often Bronx natives who have moved on and enjoy the feeling of a homecoming that his shows provide. 

“Sometimes, people literally recognize people they haven’t seen in years,” Mileto says.  “I’ll hear, ‘Hey! I know you, you lived over on this block or that block.”

The director encourages the family atmosphere by talking to as many patrons as he can.

 “I like to shake everyone’s hand and make sure they had a good time,” Mileto explains. 

This sense of community promoted at the show can be found in the Little Italy community of the Bronx, where people have been very receptive to Mileto’s theater projects.

He credits the support of Mike Greco of Mike’s Deli for helping to promote his work, as well as other Arthur Avenue Market merchants.

“Joe’s a great guy; its great what they’re doing and we’re happy to help,” Greco said.

Belmont native Chazz Palminteri has inspired the Bronx director to tell his own slices of Bronx life, seeing someone he identified with make it in show business. 

“To see my posters down there next to A Bronx Tale at the market makes me feel like I’m going down the right path.”

This year’s special guest will be Pelham Bay native Louis Vanaria, also of A Bronx Tale fame, who will provide a musical intro to the show for two performances. 

After “Can’noli Happen Again,” the director describes his next project as a mixture of multigenerational tales of a mixed Irish and Italian community.

“It’ll be like being at your Thanksgiving table hearing stories from your funny cousin,” Mileto explains.  “I believe that entertainment is storytelling, and I just want to tell stories that people can relate to, laugh at, and enjoy.”

Limited tickets can be purchased at www.theatermania.com.  Go to www.pastapigskin.com for more information.

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