A zany, erratic, painfully poignant memoir of growing up working class and gay in the Bronx during the ’60s and ’70s.
Actor/playwright Capotorto’s debut is based on his one-man show of the same title, a loose translation of his surname (torto = twisted; capo = boss or head). The gallery of nutty grotesques who inhabited his Italian-American family and neighborhood ran the gamut from his tyrannical, slave-driving father to his long-suffering mother and three sisters; an array of grandmas, aunts, cousins and teachers also peopled his lonely, awkward childhood. Capotorto’s father struggled to wrest a living from the off-the-beaten-path Cappi’s Pizza and Sangweech Shoppe near Pelham Parkway, but his strict house rules drove customers away. Cappi exercised a despotic rule over his family as well. He verbally abused everyone, censored all cultural activities and tracked down eldest daughter Rosette when she ran away to become a flower child. Once the Capotortos moved from their tiny apartment into a big house a block away, teenaged Carl spent his weekends toiling thanklessly for his father in the ramshackle building’s renovation. His cameo portraits of various sadistic public-school teachers are wickedly funny, as is his send-up of the “high theatrics” of the local Catholic church, St. Lucy’s. As the author became aware of his homosexuality, he sought out likeminded “misfits,” discovered disco, got involved in drama and experimented with sexual partners. Unsurprisingly, hiding his true nature from his father made him fearful and anxious. Cappi, who never really accepted his son, died of a heart attack in 1998.
Fresh details, stand-up jokes and anecdotes compensate for the lack of smooth narrative flow.