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By Joe Siegel
Vincent “Buddy” Cianci was one of Rhode Island’s most memorable politicians. Cianci died in 2016 but his legacy lives on.
“The Prince of Providence,” based on Providence Journal reporter Mike Stanton’s book about the legendary Mayor, has its world premiere at Trinity Repertory Company on September 12.
The creative team behind the show is first-rate: the script is by playwright George Brant and Brown/Trinity MFA grad and Obie Award winner Taibi Magar is directing. Scott Aiello, one of the stars of the Showtime series “Billions,” will play Cianci. The cast also includes Rebecca Gibel, Stephen Berenson, Erick Betancourt, Janice Duclos, Mauro Hantman, Phyllis Kay, Brian McEleney, Charlie Thurston, and Joe Wilson, Jr.
Cianci was the longest-serving mayor of Providence and one of the longest-serving “big city” mayors in United States history, having held office for over 21 years.
Cianci was twice elected Mayor of Providence and also served as a prosecutor and attorney. He was forced to resign from office twice due to felony convictions. His first administration ended in 1984 when he pleaded no contest to charges brought against him. His second stint as mayor ended when he was forced to resign following his conviction for one count of racketeering conspiracy, and he served four years in federal prison.
“I read the book 15 years ago and was blown away by the writing, by the story, and by the character,” explained Tyler Dobrowski, an associate artistic director at Trinity. Dobrowski directed last April’s “Little Shop of Horrors.”
There had been talk about a possible motion picture based on the book, but that never came to fruition. Dobrowski notes this is the first major stage production to tell Cianci’s story.
“It’s a story that’s ripe for the retelling,” Dobrowski said. “Something that we try to do at Trinity Rep. is tell the story of Rhode Island.” “The Prince of Providence” is a lot like Buddy Cianci himself, Dobrowski noted: “There were times when he could be quite menacing according to his ex-wife and people who worked for him. He was also so charismatic, so funny, even the quotes (attributed to him) were really, really funny, so the script does a nice job of balancing both aspects of Buddy’s personality.”
As for why Aiello was cast as Cianci instead of one of the company members, Dobrowski explained it was about providing audiences with a fresh face for the character.
“We wanted someone that was going to be a terrific actor and obviously we have a bunch of terrific actors in our company, but we also liked Scott because of his range,” Dobrowski said. “He can play much younger. (The play) starts just as Buddy is about to make his run for Mayor (of Providence). The whole first act is Buddy in his thirties. The second act is mostly when Buddy is between 50 and 60 years old during his second term as Mayor. For a character this size, we wanted someone our subscribers didn’t already have a relationship with.”
“The Prince of Providence” is shaping up to be the fall’s most talked about and popular production. Dobrowski believes audiences will walk away with a different outlook on Cianci as a man and as a political leader.
“For people who lived (during the Cianci era), it will be interesting to kind of refresh their memory,” Dobrowski said. “For people who haven’t gone through it, (the show) I think it will be very eye opening to see Buddy’s life journey and the journey of Providence and of Rhode Island over the past 40 years or so.”
The Prince of Providence runs from September 12 through October 20. Trinity Repertory Company. 201 Washington St., Providence. For tickets, visit trinityrep.com or call 401-351-4242.