Danny Aiello tells Alma Cuervo he can’t fix her shoes in ‘The Shoemaker.’ Photo by Ben Hider.
The first act of Susan Charlotte’s “The Shoemaker,” directed by Anthony Marsellis and playing through August 14 at Theater Row’s Acorn Theater, wastes no time in establishing the symbolic level on which it will operate. The lights are barely up when Giuseppe, an Italian-American cobbler, finds himself barged in upon by a Columbia film professor with (ahem) a “broken sole.” Although the cobbler (Danny Aiello) insists that his shop is closed, the woman is persistent, and the two argue, eventually sharing stories of traumas past and present.
It is the afternoon of September 11, 2001. The woman has witnessed the tragedy of that morning, and her memory of it has become entwined with the thought of a film she had intended to show, Vittorio de Sica’s “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.” This permits an uncomfortable segue by the shoemaker into the story of his father’s death in the Holocaust. Meanwhile, a pair of heels wait for a customer — an investment banker called “teeny Louise” — who, it is assumed, will never return for them. On the wall, a framed photograph of the pile of shoes at the Washington, D.C. Holocaust Museum provides extra dramatic heft — if only it did not have to be pointed out so frequently.