The Edge shows ‘Newark’

Leo (Rick Yaconis) and Anthony (Christian Mist) find themselves in a tight spot with the wrath of a mafia family bearing down on them in “Newark Violenta.”
“Callus (Brock Benson) is handcuffed to a chair while Leo (Rick Yaconis) and Fallonback (Robert Kramer) decide what to do next, in The Edge’s production of “Newark Violenta.”
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The Edge Theater has a reputation of putting on plays that push the envelope, but for the first time it is showing a play that was written specifically for the theater.

“Newark Violenta,” which is showing at the theater, 9797 W. Colfax Ave., through Jan. 26, was written by local playwright Jonson Kuhn after he was commissioned by executive producer and artistic director Rick Yaconis.

“I submitted a play to their local playwrights contest, but the play I had submitted ended being picked up by another company,” Kuhn said. “So I told Rick and Patty that I could write something for them.”

“Newark Violenta” is an homage to the mafia B-movies of the 1970s, as well as the work of Quentin Tarantino. Kuhn has taken almost a slapstick approach to the genres, according to Yaconis.

“It’s a really fun take on these stories,” he said. “It has everything from crooked FBI agents to mafia dons and bookies.”

Kuhn said that he was inspired by the fact that both he and Yaconis are Italian, and that he has been a fan of the genre for a long time.

The play tells the story of Leo, a bookie in Atlantic City, who used to work for the mafia in Newark, N.J., but is now banned. Leo is a Vietnam veteran who served with Frank, who now is the head of the Newark mafia family.

Now that he is the head of the family, he’s coming for Leo.

Kuhn said that he rewrote the play four or five times before arriving at the finished draft because he said he didn’t want the production to get started until he had a draft that everyone was happy with.

“We’ve been working on this for four months, and most of that time has been because of script changes,” Yaconis said.

Creating that draft meant working with the cast, and especially working with director Rich Cowden, who Kuhn studied under when he was younger, and said was instrumental in getting the play on stage.

Kuhn said the table reads were a lot of fun, and allowed a lot of ideas about the characters and show to be developed.

“I’ve written six or seven plays, but this is the most professional experience, and it’s been a real treat,” he said. “The Edge seemed like the appropriate place for the show, and I don’t know that every theater would have taken a chance like this.”

Yaconis said that putting on “Newark Violenta” demonstrates The Edge’s commitment to developing new work and talent in the area.

“We’re doing eight shows this season, and two of them are brand new,” he said. “A lot of people do the same shows, but while we’ll do a few familiar things, we want to open and close the season with new work.”

For more information and tickets call 303-232-0363 or visit www.theeproject.org.

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