Desus Nice and The Kid Mero might be the Bronx’s favorite sons, but that doesn’t mean they ignore the other boroughs, especially when Broadway comes calling. With the latest (fourth? tenth?) COVID wave making the New York theater’s announced September reopening suddenly shaky, the Bodega Boys, on Thursday’s show, had just the secret weapons to ensure that the (masked, vaccinated, and not willfully stupid) Broadway faithful throng back to long-shuttered theaters. Those weapons? Desus & Mero “director in residence” John Turturro, and 1998's Hype Williams-directed crime drama Belly.
In their exclusive, behind-the-scenes document of rehearsals for their absolutely genuine and 100 percent happening Belly on Broadway, Desus and Mero, decked out as Nas’ Sin and DMX’s Tommy respectively, assured hungry viewers that the Turturro-helmed stage adaptation will recapture the greatness of Belly. A film, Desus noted, that is “one of the most important films that we’ve seen since Citizen Kane, or maybe—maybe—Snow Dogs.”
That’s a bold statement, but the guys looked ready to back it up, having enlisted New York stage veteran and two-time Jesus Turturro to bring the infamous tale of soulful Queens (and Omaha, and Atlanta, and Jamaica, and eventually Africa) gangsters to life. Pronouncing “Broadway” with the trilled and extended “b” common to all true impresarios, the all-in Turturro was shown putting his stars through their paces in an empty theater, assuring eager theatergoers that Desus and Mero are truly “the Nas and DMX of their generation.” Plus, Turturro confesses solemnly, “They’re the only Black people I know.”
Turturro’s process is a grueling one, as evidenced by Mero comparing the run-up to opening night to “when you have to take a shit really badly.” (He means that as a compliment.) And we see the results, as Desus, following his director’s advice, repeatedly acts out getting shot as if he’s simultaneously having sex with the stage, breakdancing, and, well, taking a shit, really badly. (He also nails the legendary, “Africa is far” scene, although, in Turturro’s production, he apparently steals the line originally uttered by T-Boz Watkins.) As Turturro explains, Belly (pronounced “Belllyyyyy,” naturally) is truly a story about “the duality of man, the lure of wealth, getting your dick sucked,” and he’s just the acclaimed director to bring all of that to The Great White Way. As the A.V. Club’s Ashley Ray-Harris once noted, sagely, “White dudes love this movie.”