REVIEW

BOB CRISO REVIEWS GAY.PORN.MAFIA

AND SPEAKS WITH THE PLAYWRIGHT

For his fourteenth birthday, Joe Gulla’s father gave him a year’s subscription to Playboy. For his sixteenth, he wanted to hire a hooker but Joe pleaded “NO!” Neither event was that shocking in this family. Mr. Gulla had an extensive collection of porn at home that was easy to access. In the basement, where the family often entertained, there was a large collage/mural of revealing Vargas nudes cut out from Playboy magazines. Joe became a popular guy with some of the boys at Cardinal Spellman High School. All of this took place in an otherwise rather conservative, second- generation, Italian-American family, living in a row house, within the insular confines of Morris Park in the Bronx. Joe’s grandparents were from Naples and Sicily. 

Joe was the oldest cousin in a large extended family that had great expectations of him. He was good-looking and excelled academically. At one point, there was even a buzz that he might become a priest. Sounds like an Italian-American version of the American Dream, right? But wait.

Joe was gay; hiding it and trying to live up to those expectations only there was too wide a gap between who he was and what everyone else wanted him to be. He didn’t fool the neighborhood street kids though, they were too savvy. 

“I hated being called a fag,” he says, “Nothing hurt worse.” It was an adolescence filled with stress but it all came to a head when Joe went away to college and fell in love with his roommate. Finally free from the family’s clutches, he came out. “It takes a real man to come out of the closet,” he says. “In the face of hate, in the face of ignorance, in the face of real-life threat, coming out is the least faggy thing a gay man will ever do.”

Today, Joe is a mature gay man in his fifties. Ironically, he still prefers watching heterosexual porn just as he did with his father’s collection — the early etch has prevailed. His focus, of course, remains on the man. Now, Joe has mined his personal, family and neighborhood history into a series of stand-up monologues and short plays, really vignettes, that capture all the color, fun, absurdity, hypocrisy and truth that he observed in the Bronx. 

Joe’s latest creation, “Gay, Porn, Mafia” was performed at the Downtown Urban Arts Festival on April 14 at the New York Live Arts Theater. The show highlights various sharply-observed characters from his experience including the closeted gay priest, the closeted family physician treating a young man for “gay hay fever,” the macho Mafia thug you would never suspect was gay, the ditsy Italian-American secretary with big hair and no apparent brains working at a gay-oriented art-gallery, the Mafia takeover of that gallery once there is big money to be made and another gay priest who accidentally drops in on a gay party in Spain and is “converted.” They are all funny, closer to farce, but they also have a point and are all connected to both Joe’s experience and imagination. The acting was first-rate all around, convincing and with perfect timing. “You put cheese on your linguine with clam sauce?” the big-haired secretary shockingly exclaims, noting a cardinal sin in any Italian-American family. It’s a line worthy of SNL and Rosanna Rosannadanna. The delivery was impeccable. 

Joe is probably best known for his monologues, often performed at Joe’s Pub in New York as well as Los Angeles clubs. As for his playwriting, his “Bronx Queen” won the Audience Award at the 2016 Urban Arts Festival and was also awarded Best Comedic Script and Most Popular Show at the 2012 and 2013 United Solo Theater Festival. “Faggy at Fifty” was awarded Best One Man Show at the 2015 United Solo Festival. He also won the 2015 Best Comedian award at the United Solo Festival for “Daddy.” Joe has played “Frankie” in the reality series “Lost” and was named The Advocate’s “Anti-Bullying Hero” in 2012.

“Gay.Porn.Mafia” had only one performance at the Downtown Urban Arts Festival (more are planned!), however, Joe performs regularly at Joe’s Pub. Catch his next scheduled show in about two months — it’s candid, wise, edgy, never obscene and has plenty of guaranteed laughs, even if you’re not Italian. -- Bob Criso, Hi Drama

“Gay.Porn.Mafia”


Written by Joe Gulla
Directed by Brian Rardin


Downtown Urban Arts Festival
New York Live Arts Theater

Featured the following actors playing various roles;
Joe Gulla (Playwright/Redmond/Gino)
Jeff Riberdy (Fr. Gerard/Shep)
Lou Libertore (Dr. Rifkin/Don) 
Todd Butera (Jonah/Ron) 
Andrea Cordero (Frima/Whitney)
Emily Dinova (Geraldine DiGennaro/Shyla)
Aaron Dalla Villa (Kyle/Quinn)