Review Fix chats with Gino DiIorio, who discusses his new production “SAM & DEDE, OR MY DINNER WITH ANDRE THE GIANT.” Breaking down the inspiration for the production and more, Dilorio lets us know exactly why it’s a magical production.
Based on an urban legend that turned out to be true! At 12-years old the boy who would grow up to be wrestling icon Andre the Giant was already over 6 feet tall and 240 pounds and he didn’t fit on the school bus. Andre’s neighbor, as repayment for a favor, offered to drive Andre to school in his truck. That neighbor was Samuel Beckett.
SAM & DEDE, OR MY DINNER WITH ANDRE THE GIANT imagines moments between a boy giant who cannot hide and a writer obsessed with silence. What could they possibly talk about? As absurd as a Beckett play itself!
Review Fix: How did this production come to be?
Gino DiIorio: We premiered the play last Feb at the Custom Made Theatre in SF and we got some good notices and people seemed to dig it. So we were fortunate enough to be able to bring it out to NY. Going back a ways, I showed the play to director Leah Abrams and she loves Beckett so it ended up being a great collaboration.
I originally go the idea for the piece from my son, who used to watch wrestling. And he asked me who I followed when I was a kid and I mentioned Andre the Giant. He didn’t know who that was so we did a wiki search and found out that Samuel Beckett drove Andre to school in the 8th grade. And I thought that was crazy so if anybody should write about it, I should. And that’s how the play was born (not really the question but I figured it was important!)
Review Fix: How did you research for it?
DiIorio: There’s lots of interviews with Andre and of course videos of him wrestling. So there’s a lot to dive into there. Also, after he performed in Princess Bride so many people spoke of their experience with him and that helped in building the character.
Beckett is trickier. He was very private and gave very few interviews. So a lot of it came from speaking with people who either directed his work, acted in his plays. There’s stuff out there (from Harold Pinter, Billie Whitelaw, etc.) but you really have to dig.
Review Fix: What did you learn about Andre that you didn’t expect?
DiIorio: I think he was constantly underestimated. Everybody knew him from Princess Bride but he was really an extraordinary athlete. People assume that he’s a big man so wrestling must come easy to him. But nothing could be further from the truth. To be a successful wrestler, you need athleticism, you have to be great at stage combat, you need charisma, you have to be a good actor, and in Andre’s case, you have to do this in a body that’s 7-4, and 450 some odd pounds. He was truly a marvel.
Review Fix: You need a special cast to pull this off. What was casting like?
DiIorio: Not easy! The cast performed the play in SF and we brought the same folks back for the NY production. Dave and Brendan have great rapport. And of course Brendan (Averett) is a large man as well so he has some understanding as to what Andre must have gone through.
Review Fix: What’s the difference between Andre the person and Andre the WWE legend?
DiIorio: His private persona was very outgoing. He was also very thoughtful, he never thought he would live that long so having a sense of his mortality gave him a different perspective on things. Not the kind of thing you would see in the ring!
Review Fix: Who will enjoy this production the most?
DiIorio: I think a lot of people. It’s about two very unique individuals who had very different lives and outlooks on the world. Putting them together is a lot of fun.
Review Fix: How do you want this production to be remembered?
DiIorio: Tough question. I hope it’s a unique riff on the theatre. And life I guess. Sometimes we want to be in the limelight and other times we just want to be left alone. And we never seem to get those things exactly when we want them! Sam and Dede understood that firsthand.
Review Fix: What’s next?
DiIorio: My play The Jag goes up at Shadowland Theatre in July. (The play just had its world premiere at NJ Rep the past Jan.) I’m working on a couple of new things that I hope to have completed by summer’s end.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
DiIorio: I hope people see it and enjoy it! And thanks for listening.