Keith Collins As The Evil Todd Levy And Eric Etebari As Jesus

With apologies to Bruce Springsteen, I have seen the future of independent films and it is Stuck in the Middle!

The low budget independent film co-directed by Joseph Pepitone and Carlos Duhaime had its’ New York City Premiere last night at the Tribeca Grand Hotel and attracted a sell-out crowd that could not stop raving about the film long after the credits rolled.

The movie follows a lazy loser’s afterlife in Purgatory. At a little under ninety minutes, this movie has no slow spots. The brother writing team of Joseph and Billy Pepitone packed so many laughs, jokes and one liners into this film I am sure the audience missed many of them laughing at the lines that proceeded it.

The ensemble cast was very strong with everyone getting a moment to shine. Stephen Fontana held his own in his first starring role up against some very accomplished actors. Penelope Lagos plays his beautiful love interest and radiates off the screen like a starlet. When Fontana claims to have a swimmer’s body, Lagos lightening quick response of “Yeah, Shamu” was timed and delivered like a true film comedian.

Cash Tilton was a great find for this movie. His turn as the demoted, butt kissing St. Peter was a unique take on Jesus’ main apostle and his facial expressions alone had me rooting for him to get back into Heaven.

While Stuck in the Middle is filled with some salty language, most of it is spewed by Jeanette Roxborough as a Purgatory lifer who has lost all hope of getting to the Promised Land. Hearing such words coming from such a beautiful woman’s mouth was a great juxtaposition that Roxborough nailed.

As for the villain of the film, Keith Collins falls into the love to hate category, the sign of a great bad guy. Whether he is being punk’d by Fontana and Lagos or scheming behind everyone’s back to buy Purgatory, Collins manic, chaotic character is hysterical and evil all at the same time. The chemistry between Collins and Eric Etebari as Jesus is as good as it gets. Etebari is in full Jesus Christ Superstar mode as the Savior whose love of golf rivals only his quest for perfect abs. Yes, Jesus loves golf and hits the gym in Stuck in the Middle and Etebari is devilishly good as the Son of Man.

If I had one complaint of this film it is Jack Mulcahy. The complaint is that Mulcahy didn’t have enough screen time! Playing a Ronald Reagan impersonator, I knew every time he was in a scene he would own it. The audience seemed to anticipate the next words out of his mouth would be a gem.

Even small role players delivered big laughs. Evonne Walton, Samantha Cole, Oscar Avila, David Rabadi and young Abigail Summa all add to pivotal scenes throughout the film. And stay for the credits for a few outtakes and a cameo by HBO’s Telling Nicholas star Thanbir Ahmed who wraps the whole movie up with one line.

The premiere was a great success for the entire Stuck in the Middle family and I predict great things for this little film that can! As the cast and crewed than celebrated at Lair Lounge for the after party, I had a feeling we will be hearing from all involved very soon.