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Highland Fling for Capone : 'King of the City,' a one-man play about the crime figure, is an entry in a Scottish festival.

August 14, 1992|MICHAEL ARKUSH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Robert Gallo has trouble saying the M-word.

The word is mobster , and for many Ameri cans growing up in the era of Prohibition and gangland violence, it meant Al Capone.

But Gallo, who portrayed Capone in a one-man play in March at the Group Repertory Theatre in North Hollywood, claims that Capone was no more evil than his contemporaries in the criminal circles of the 1920s, and should be admired for his tenacity and ambition.

"I don't want to call him that," said Gallo, who lives in North Hollywood. "That's the handle the public put on him. That wasn't necessarily him."

Gallo will take his case to Scotland. Today through Aug. 29, "King of the City" will be presented at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, one among about a dozen plays from the United States.

The trip is funded by Juanin Clay, the play's producer and director, who, along with Gallo, revised the March production by incorporating more similarities between Capone's era and modern times.

"We still have the corruption we had in 1929," Clay said. "Whatever Capone was, it was exactly the way gangs operate today. It's the idea that you have to be fearless to get to the top, no matter what you're doing."

The Scotland show also will include a slide montage of newspaper headlines and photographs from Capone's alleged role in ordering the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre. His henchmen, dressed as policemen, killed seven rival gang members. In 1931, Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion.

Clay said Scotland is curious to learn more about Capone.

"When I was in England last winter," she said, "I found out that people over there are fascinated with Capone. He was bigger than life."

If the play is warmly received, it could be selected for another festival a few weeks later in London, she added.

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