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Godfather IV

May 2, 2010

Lee Tergesen, Christopher Meloni, Dean Winters and Terry Kinney participated in an uproarious celebrity reading of "The Godfather IV," written by "Oz" creator Tom Fontana and directed by Linda Laundra.

Eamonn Walker was the narrator, and Tom Fontana made a couple of special cameo appearances (as Julianna Margulies and Colin Farrell!). Other "Oz" alumni in supporting roles were Mike Doyle, Zeljko Ivanek, David Laundra, Kristin Rohde, and Catherine Wolf.

In promoting the show, the Primary Stages site described the plot this way:

Three actors from "Oz" sit in a diner, talking about their careers and the works of various screen immortals. When one of the trio (Chris Meloni) attacks the plausibility of the Jack Woltz scene in "The Godfather," the other two (Lee Tergesen, Dean Winters) decide to "re-enact" the scene by sneaking a horse's head into Meloni's bed. Unexpected complications arise.

Tom Fontana's site called the play "a comedy about ego, love, revenge and a horse's head."

There were just two performances: 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 2, 2010, at 59E59 Theater A in New York City.

In introducing the play, Elliot Fox, the managing director of Primary Stages, told the audience that the group of talented performers had been working "diligently" to prepare for the event ... "since yesterday." *wink wink*

The script was much longer in the making, however. Lee said that Tom Fontana had actually finished it about five years ago. He explained that's why some of the references were a little dated, such as a part where Lee says he learned about jimmying locks from playing a hoodlum on "Hack."

Tom's original plan for "Godfather IV" was that it would be a feature film. Then it was to have been a stage play. It has been revised a few times over the years as plans for it changed. Finally, Tom simply updated and stripped it down for the Primary Stages reading.

Proceeds from the event will benefit Primary Stages and the Writers Guild of America East Foundation.

SYNOPSIS, cobbled from New York Magazine, Vicki Moriarity's blog and my own memories:

The performance was actually a "staged reading." The actors sat on stools lined up on stage, and stand in front of each stool held the script from which they read. Despite the "reading," it was an animated performance, filled with inside jokes and hilarious ad-libs.

Eamonn Walker narrated the action of the play, which centered around a coffee-shop get-together of real-life friends Terry Kinney, Dean Winters, Lee Tergesen and Christopher Meloni. The bull session eventually finds Winters and Tergesen plotting to re-create the famed horsehead-in-bed scene from "The Godfather," with Meloni as the victim and Kinney filming the action for a documentary.

Why? Because (in the play) it turns out that since "Oz" ended, Meloni has become a preening Master Thespian. In front of his sporadically employed buddies, he feigns exasperation at having to work every day for the past 11 years on a hit.

After the show, Meloni sought to set the record straight: "That wasnít the real Christopher Meloni!" he said. But Tergesen jokingly disagreed: ďHeís such a dick!"

In the productionís most hilarious art-imitates-life-imitates-art turn, Tergesen remains in thrall to Meloni just as Oz's Tobias Beecher was to Chris Keller. "Itís about putting our characters on display, in terms of Chris manipulating me, and me being all sweet and innocent Ö 'cause Iím definitely not sweet and innocent," Tergesen told New York Magazine. "But it shows how tight we were and how we just beat the shit out of each other, and always just having a laugh, no matter what."

In regard to the laughs, the cast's repeated cutups and flubbed line readings were relished by the audience.

The play began with the actors discussing their favorite actors. It gave Lee the opportunity to trot out some superb impressions, including Cary Grant and a James-Mason-like Lawrence Olivier. Finally, they hit on Marlon Brando. This led to discussion of "The Godfather," a move that Meloni thinks is thoroughly implausible. When Dean says something along the lines of it being a classic, Meloni asks incredulously, "Better than Citizen Kane? Better than Avatar?" That got a HUGE laugh, which made Meloni beam and say "I wrote that line."

Throughout the reading, Terry Kinney kept making little jibes at the other actors and then he'd look at the audience and say very softly, "I didn't write that," and make writing motions in the air while shaking his head.

According to the plot, Lee has recently broken up with the actress Julianna Margulies. When Eamonn stage-directs that "Julianna Margulies enters the diner," everyone on stage looked expectantly to the entrance and applauded madly. Out walked... Tom Fontana. Alas, Julianna was supposed to be in the play, but a last-minute scheduling conflict kept her from being there. So, for the rest of the show, Tom played Julianna Margulies. Which was HILARIOUS.

Because "Julianna" at the diner looking for Chris, Lee learns that Chris has broken the "guy code" by dating his ex.  Therefore, he decides to go along with Dean's plan to put a horse head in Meloni's bed.

Dean is in charge of getting the blood and the horse head. After a couple of false starts and scenes with David Laundra and Kristen Rhode, he winds up going to see Zeljko Ivanek (the governor on "Oz") because he remembers that Zeljko once had a horse's head on his wall. But Zeljko now has a moose head instead, and he is strangely attached to it. Reluctantly agreeing to loan it to Dean, Zeljko kisses Mortimer the moose goodbye. Later in the play, when Dean doesn't return the moose head on time, Zeljko leaves messages on his answering machine, plaintively calling out, "Mortimer, where are you?" Zeljko's part was small, but absolutely one of the highlights of the play! (The moose head, by the way, was an adorable stuffed animal. It was adorable, even while Lee is gleefully "sawing" its antlers off so that it more closely resembles a horse.)

Meanwhile, Lee and Terry are in charge of getting a key to Meloni's house. Catherine Wolf (Nurse Carol Grace in "Oz") plays a suspicious neighbor of Meloni's. Nevertheless, they are able to convince her that Lee is a city alley inspector and Terry a member of Homeland Security and she leaves them alone.

When Lee, Dean, and Terry finally do sneak into Meloni's house, they find Chris in bed with "Julianna." To enact this scene, Tom Fontana and Meloni had put two stools together, and Meloni snuggled up to Tom-as-Julianna, one leg hooked over his, head snuggled into his neck, one hand on his breast, and a look of blissful contentment on his face.

Confronted by the sight of two people in bed, Lee, Dean and Terry retreat. But not before Terry gets a lot of footage of "Julianna's" breasts. "Hubba, hubba!"

Back "outside," Lee is shocked that Chris would betray him. "Charlatan!" he cries. This scene follows a couple of instances in which Lee had gotten all loopy when Meloni would refer to him as his best friend. Once, Meloni insisted that he's not dating Julianna, declaring, "I'd never do that to my best friend." Lee was so thrilled, saying, "Best friend? Oh joy! Oh rapture!" The laughs rained down.

The reading also contained countless moments when Chris would look over at Lee and give him a knowing smirk, or a grin, or make googly eyes at him, causing members of the audience swoon or laugh. Or both. Then there was the line from Meloni, in which he stated: "We have a bond, a chemistry that transcends time, space and heterosexual impulses."

At several points, Lee is called "sweet and naive" and he's just getting totally bamboozled and manipulated by Meloni. After a few of those instances, the audience would go "Awwwwww." Lee at one point looked out at the audience and beamed and said something like, "These are my people."

Back in the "alley," Dean convinces Lee that they have to come back another night when Chris is alone. He's worried that Julianna might wake up because "she's a very light sleeper." Lee and Dean's timing here was impeccable, as Lee looks at him in shock for a long beat, then asks "How do you know that?" Dean quickly answers, "TMZ." LOL!

When they try again the next night, Meloni is alone in "bed." Chris simulated this pulling two stools together and curling up on his side, with his lower legs dangling off. Quite a balancing act.

The first problem the perpetrators encountered was getting Meloni's sheets untangled. Dean orders Lee to "blow on him." Lee looks surprised and says, "Blow him?" Finally, he gets the instructions straight and causes Meloni to stir, unfurling the sheets. With this action completed, Terry, Lee, and Dean take a moment to marvel at the size of Chris' cock. (He is fully clad, of course. But he does "wake up" and give a nod of thanks to Fontana, the writer.)

Eamonnn stage-directs that Chris starts rubbing his dick, and Chris moves his hand in that general direction and then starts moaning. "Leeeee." "Leeeeeeee!" "LeeeEEEEeeee!" The scene is priceless.

Finally, they guys accomplish their mission: They put the "horse head" in Meloni's bed, cover it with "blood" (aka Paul Newman's spaghetti sauce) and get out of there without awakening him.

"Outside," they are accosted by a cop, played by Mike Doyle (Adam Guenzel in "Oz"). Dean tells Lee to play drunk. "How drunk?" Lee asks. "Jaeger drunk," he's told. Lee immediate staggers and belts out a few lines from the "My Fair Lady" songbook. Before long, he has the policeman singing along. And, boy, can Mike Doyle sing! I could have danced all night myself!

The play wraps up with the guys back in the coffee shop. Terry's documentary has won an Oscar, Lee does an imitation of John Travolta from "Staying Alive," and Colin Farrell is there, too. Well, Tom Fontana as Colin Farrell, that is. :)


After the show, the entire cast posed for photos for the press, and then Chris and Lee came to the foot of the stage where they promptly were mobbed by fans.

Pictures of this and other play-related festivities can be found here: Events: Godfather IV


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Related Links

Fans' snapshot gallery

New York Magazine
review & recap

Bianculli's Blog
about the event

Primary Stages info
about the reading

About Primary Stages

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