It's not flattering to be referred to as a clown, and even though Carmine, the mobster in Send in the Clown, has attained the nickname because of a skin condition, the reference is always a problem. That's the simple premise of writer/director Ace Denison's work, which ran in the New Orleans Fringe Festival in November 2014 and was remounted recently at Marigny Theatre.
An opening scene should be familiar to any fan of Martin Scorsese's 1990 film Goodfellas, where the mafia men's club's extreme violence and bravado are a font of dark humor. Clown's scene is very similar to the film when Henry (Ray Liotta) says he thinks Tommy (Joe Pesci) is funny and Tommy asks if Henry is actually calling him foolish ("I'm funny how? I mean like I'm a clown? I amuse you?").
Carmine's absurd predicament makes him a permanently misunderstood figure, which seems promising, but the story is thin and too many characters are one-dimensional or cartoonish: an Irish cop with an overdone accent, Carmine's perpetually angry mafia family rival Bobby Damone and bit-part mobsters constantly tugging at their lapels and rolling their shoulders.
Carmine wears white makeup on his face with blue diamonds around his eyes and a big red nose. As a bullied child, Carmine learns to fight and this ostensibly leads to a life in organized crime. As he climbs the ladder in the organization, he becomes interested in Don Angelo's daughter, though it's not clear why she falls for him — other than claiming that he's not like other people. Carmine's lifelong friend thinks this is an opportunity for the two of them to take over the organization.
As Carmine, Craig Leydecker does everything he can to carry the drama, but he has to do it alone. There are no other strong characters, and the story mostly rushes forward in short scenes.
The set was minimal, and some technical work was rough. Sound effects of gunshots were too quiet and not sharply synchronized with action. Stage fighting choreographed in slow motion was not smooth.
There are funny moments, including Carmine's attempt to confess his considerable backlog of sins to a priest, but too many jokes rely on corny puns and variations of Carmine repeatedly being called a clown. There were some promising ideas and contributions, but the show isn't ready for the big top.