Winner! Samuel French Off Off Broadway Festival
This animated comedy thrusts two young men on stage, one black and one white. Each has been victimized by the same crime. One at a time, they tell their story while the other plays humorous supporting roles to enhance the narrative. The black assails everyone he sees in the white world: neighborhood greasers, sociology professors and sleazy businessmen. Reverse discrimination, violence perpetrated by blacks and the impotent justice system form the core of the white man's tale. Their tirades culminate in an explosive confrontation one's sister was stabbed to death and the other was charged with the crime and then exonerated.
Published in Off-Off Broadway Festival Plays, 19th Series.
“Vassallo orchestrates an intricate duel of wits between two embittered men struggling to validate their own bigotry.” – Steven Boone, Show Business
“Mr. Vassallo has taken an interesting approach. … There is some refreshingly honest talk from both characters—no political correctness here.” – Neil Genzlinger, New York Times
"The strength of Vassallo’s 1995 playlet is that he balances griefs. Nothing … is black-and-white. Intolerance, the playwright observes, can sometimes grow from understandable resentments—but the problem with rational gripes is that they don't often lead to attempts at reconciliation. – David Finkle, Theater Mania
“A bitter sampling of bigotry and racial epithets … Most blatantly challenging and angry …hints at social conventions, political correctness in universities, and the genesis of bigotry among the average folks on the street… offers some poignant moments of heated exchange.” – Kessa De Santis, Electronic Link
“A highly theatrical exploration of ongoing racial grudges in the Bronx.” – Mark Dundas Wood, Backstage
The Spelling Bee was originally performed at the Hamlet of West Bank Theatre, December 12, 1993, at the Village Gate, New York, and then on April 4, 1994, at the Nat Horne Theatre, New York, directed by Natalya Sokiel and performed by the following cast:
WHITE MAN: Joseph Amorando
BLACK MAN: Theo Scott