Feb. 1 2011 12:00 AM

True love blooms between gun battles in Purple Rose's 'Corktown'


(Tuesday, Feb. 1) CHELSEA — At first squint and frown, “Corktown,” now playing at the Purple Rose Theater, appears to be nothing more than the latest incarnation of the hit-man-with-a-heart-of-gold genre popularized in crime novels by Elmore Leonard, on the big screen by “Pulp Fiction,” and on HBO by “The Sopranos.”

Or, maybe, just maybe, writer Michael David Ogden means this to be a “Saturday Night Live”-style spoof. Boy meets girl (wrapped, seemingly dead, in a bloody canvas shroud), girl meets boy (as he carefully unwraps his squirming prey) and boy and girl meet sinister Irish mob boss with a spurious, squishy soft spot for true love.

However one spins the plot about the Corktown ghetto of Detroit, the action on stage is performed exquisitely well, culling awkward and uncomfortable laughs from material likely to be deemed entirely unsuitable for children.

Director Guy Sanville calls on fight choreographers Nate Mitchell and Katie J. Terpstra to fling bruised and bloodied actors across an expansive stage with wild and crazy abandon.

Matthew David is the hapless hitman Joey, whose job description includes not only the killing but also the chopping-up-into-little-pieces-to-feed-to-the-fishes after-job that’s so essential to mob killings. Joey has a mid-life epiphany as he comes to realize that maybe, possibly, his destiny is meant to be something more than this thankless job, which was given to him upon his return from the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Fellow henchman Lawrence, portrayed by Ogden, points out the chilling reality that one does not exactly just up and quit a job assigned by the mob bosses. Stacie Hadgikosti as Jenny, the not-quite-dead woman inside the bloody shroud (she survived thanks to a metal plate in her head where the bullet was supposed to go), is just winsome enough that Joey becomes resolute to change his life.

Love happens, and the plot thickens — along with accumulated blood splatter.

Tom Whalen shows up as the quietly menacing yet elegantly dapper Irish mob kingpin, Cobb, with a crisp little Irish accent. He is not quite as convincing as the serpent in Eve’s garden, giving the loving couple an Irish blessing before attempting to shoot it out with them.

This whole, exaggerated kit and caboodle is packaged and wrapped up nicely with explosive sound effects and ridiculously funny strobe-lighting by Daniel J. Walker and accompanying hyperdramatic incidental music by

Quintessa Gallinat.
"Corktown"%u2028Through March 5%u2028Purple Rose Theatre, Chelsea%u20288 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays; 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays%u2028$25-$40%u2028(734) 433-ROSE%u2028www.purplerosetheatre.org