This crime melodrama by John Bright and Asa Bordages, who wrote many of the classic Warner Bros. gangster flicks, was first produced on Broadway in 1941. Today, it seems like a time capsule of Brooklyn, and of America in the 1940s, and this feeling is further enhanced by the wonderful period props. True to its time, the play has a huge cast and a leisurely pace as it tells the tale of a mob led by Albert Anastasia (Johnny Crear). But the action centers on hired killer Smiley Manone (Rico Simonini, looking startlingly like a young Jimmy Smits), his naive hooker girlfriend (Danitha Bockoven), who explains plaintively, "I'm not a hustler, I'm a lady of joy." Shelly Kurtz is impressive as Louie, a Jewish barber who's lured into the mob action by Anastasia's promise to get his parents out of Nazi Germany. Elisabeth Noone scores as the tough, bighearted proprietress of the neighborhood candy store. There's fine support from a large cast, including Johnny Williams as a portly hit man, Will Beinbrink as a union organizer murdered by the mob, and Adriana Demeo as his girlfriend. Director T.J. Castronovo evokes the style of the old gangster films, and meticulously preserves the period flavor, assisted by Thomas Brown's detailed sets and Sherry Coon's costumes. Write Act Repertory, 6128 Yucca Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., through July 31. (323) 469-3113.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: May 20. Continues through July 31, 2010