Playwrite Frank Gagliano


What Anton's Leap is about:

Part political thriller, part sex farce, playwright Frank Gagliano's first novel ANTON'S LEAP is narrated by free-associating, sex-obsessed ballet star, Anton Otchayanie (which in Russian means Despair). It is 1982 and Anton wants to defect from Soviet Russia. But to do so, he will have to survive a train collision in Prague, join a traveling troupe of erotic jugglers, fall in love, screw a lot, create ballet and Commedia dell' Arte scenarios, get sodomized with the nose of a Commedia dell' Arte mask, seek a super-strength serum, struggle to find an artistic persona, and develop compassion for other human beings. All this, while fleeing (in drag) from a Gay KGB agent and Anton's own psychopathic twin brother Vahktang who--in a Kafkaesque horror scene--confronts Anton in a Prague Fun House. Richard Wagner's testicles also play a role. For fans of picaresque flights of literary fancy like "Candide" or "Gulliver's Travels," and for devotees of unhinged surrealists like film director Federico Fellini, ANTON'S LEAP is a must-read tour-de-force.


  [For a sampling of Gagliano's special style, download and read all of Part One from ANTON'S LEAP:]


[Order playwright Frank Gagliano's first novel ANTON'S LEAP in soft cover and on Kindle now
and read all parts in the novel:]

(Part One) Anton's Riff

(Part Two) Anton's Cop

(Part Three) Anton's Twin

(Part Four) Anton's Commedia

(Part Five) Anton's Kafka

(Part Six) Anton's Grail

(Part Seven) Anton's Leap


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(And post your own review)






4.0 out of 5 stars “Wild and Profane Fun”
December 6, 2011
Mike McKinley
- See all my reviews
This review is from: Anton's Leap (Paperback)

"Anton's Leap" will not be everyone's cup of tea, but that is a great part of its charm. The plot revolves around the defection of a ballet dancer during the Cold War, but it ain't your standard issue Nureyev story. The writing flashes brightly and garishly like a neon sign over an XXX dirty bookstore, and the content utilizes every brand of fornication (to use a polite term). It reminded me of the Neo-Baroque literature that has come out of the Caribbean by writers like Sarduy and Arenas - utterly fantastic, bizarre, freakish and lurid. But Frank Gagliano (a well-known playwright) puts his theatrical skill to great effect in what seems like a backstage musical directed by Fellini and peopled with a Warner Bros. cartoon cast of characters who like to talk dirty. Ultimately, it is Gagliano's own, unique confection and strikes out into a landscape unlike any you will ever see on the page.

The action surrounds a brilliant, extremely horny but confused young male dancer named Anton who wishes to defect to the West. You have your classic Soviet villains that could as easily have been after "Moose and Squirrel" instead of Anton, but it's a mash-up and a collage with the action veering wildly from cross-dressing train wrecks to erotic jugglers who are booked to entertain totalitarian elites. The characters have the morphing ability and fluidity that you see in a cartoon and the plot is finally resolved in a bizarre moment of theatre that is beyond anything I have ever read.

I was a ballet dancer with a well-known company in my youth and it's take on the ballet world is very interesting. Since I didn't spend my career touring in the Eastern Bloc, I can't comment on the verisimilitude it has with that world. As for the topic of classical ballet itself, there are some minor errors, but unless you are like me, a retired, classical ballet dancer, a typical reader would never catch them. However, it rings true enough considering the fact that there is nothing realistic whatsoever about the book.

I gave it four stars instead of five only because it is such a densely packed text with so many allusions and stylistic flourishes that it verges, at times, on the opaque. It really deserves a second read. Like all truly ground-breaking literature (and I think this is), it's not a light read nor for prudes. However it is certainly worth the effort, if only to arrive at the final denouement. The ending is mind-blowing.

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"A Rush of Blood to the Head,"  


Michael Rashid - (See all my reviews)

"Much is written in other reviews about the virtuosity of the language; the wildly inventive entertainment; the richness of the characters -- all of which I see, and raise: a delightful filthiness not experienced since Roald Dahl's 'My Uncle Oswald'; a narrative with the propulsive force of a literary orgasm; and most rewarding of all, a surprise crash course on why artists love art. Although readers who know little about theatre, dance, or the arts in general will enjoy "Anton" for the crazy-entertaining romp that it is, those who know and love the arts will recognize that they are experiencing a master class by an author who knows and loves theatre as much as Anton knows and loves fornication. I know it, and I love it. Read this book."
          Michael Rashid, Actor/Director,
          Artistic Drector, Black Elephant Theatre,Chicago

"Don't wait - leap now!" By 

Maria-cristina Beato-lanz 

"But take a deep breath first - this is a roller coaster for the psyche. I loved every second of this dazzling literary adventure which I guarantee is like no other (and I read A LOT!) The events that unfold are hilarious, horrendous, just plain fun, and deeply moving - depending on which part of the ride you're on; but above all, they reflect Anton's theory that in life, as in art, audacity is everything. This "leap" stretches the mind of the reader (and especially the mind of the artist) into startling and scrumptious territory. A truly extraordinary achievement!"

by John Kennedy Toole has such a hysterical and mad world been created with such a sub textual familiar truth to it. ANTON'S LEAP by Frank Gagliano seems to be written by a both wildly talented, irreverent bad boy and a seasoned master of both life and prose. Pick up the book, and I dare you not to laugh and shiver with recognition. Get ready for a real good time."

Victor Bumbalo, Playwright/Screenwriter

"Unlike any other book I have ever read" 

 (December 17, 2008


By Brian Edelman (Actor) - See all my reviews

"Frank Gagliano has written a truly wonderful piece of work. The sometimes odd, sometimes raunchy, sometimes moving book is a page turner from beginning to end. The character of Anton is a vivid one that each and every reader can identify with despite his outrageous circumstances. Sometimes while reading, I couldn't go a page without bursting out laughing. Other times, I would be disturbed by some of the imagery used by the villain. I have never read a book where I have been sent on more of an emotional journey. Some books really try to play on your emotions, but Anton's Leap takes you on a wild journey that just so happens to drag your emotions in tow. 

This great work is of a type that I cannot get everything one time through. I need to read this book at least two or three more times before I'll feel I have fully grasped everything because it is just so chock full! The best part about that is I want to read it again. It doesn't get old. I highly recommend this book to anyone ready for an adventure unlike any other!"

A circus of the mind, Matt Sincell  (Actor, New York City) - See all my reviews

"When you decide to climb onto this ride, keep your hands and feet inside at all times because once you're on it, there's no getting off! A gifted playwright has proven to be a gifted author with this novel. There is no guessing as to what will happen next in this wacky, off- beat story of Anton. Very cinematic in style and tone, you will have no trouble visualizing the story as you read it...loud, brash, hilarious, and fast moving. It will leave you gasping for breath."

A word of mouth best-seller, June 20, 2008
By Hamilton Canada
 - See all my reviews

"Anton's Leap by Frank Gagliano is a wildly imaginative page turner, replete with original fantasy and sensuality. He is a master wordsmith, with engaging poetic descriptions of every aspect of human foibles. It is comic and profound at the same time, a story that will remain permanently imprinted in your mind."

Picaresque is Insufficient, By Richard Price - See all my reviews
The word picaresque is too tame to describe the zany, surreal narrative of Anton's hilarious experiences. And yet in the midst of the off-the-wall hilarity there is a serious metaphor for much of what goes on today in our mad, mad world. Richard Price

"A Divine Comedy" By 

Peter J. Saputo. Actor, "Jaywalker" (North Carolina) - See all my reviews

"Anton's Leap is by turn warm, funny, compassionate and divinely bonkers. It is a story of political survival and revolution. I laughed, I cried, I wet my pants. It is a cry for human rights, sexual freedom. Buy at least 4 copies of this book. Give them to your friends. Do it today. You'll never live to regret it.




"Dear Frank, Please forgive me for being so slow to respond to your amazing tour de force.  It's a knockout --- ribald and raunchy and obviously well researched.  And written con brio and con amore, and I had a ball reading it.  More when I see you next month".  
    Gilbert Parker: Retired William Morris Vice President and Agent for Directors and Playwrights (Terrance McNally, Beth Henley, Mark Medoff, A. R. Gurney Jr.)



"Frank...Some books you can't put down.  
I think this is one of the best memoirs I have ever read.  
Every time I come to a paragraph ... the words seem to read my mind...
In other words I am "right there" with the writer.
It is an engaging, funny, insightful, original and entertaining piece of work. I can't wait to finish it, and then start reading it ALL OVER AGAIN. This is my honest opinion.  In other words, Frank, I love it. All the best, Dominic"
          Dominic Chianese--Actor (Uncle Junior, HBO's The Sopranos)



"ANTON'S LEAP does a lot of things.  The book will make you angry.  It will make you laugh.  You'll see yourself in the characters.  You'll wish you could be a part of the story.  Or not.  There is action, suspense, sex, more sex, and some suspenseful sex with action. There is intrigue. There are jokes.  Above all, ANTON'S LEAP is an uncompromising work by one of America's greatest writers, a man who first challenged off-Broadway audiences in the 1960s with his unique view of life and love. Frank Gagliano now uses that same gift for words to make mincemeat out of readers.  Like a great Fellini movie, ANTON'S LEAP is indescribable, surreal, and infuriating.  And fun.  And those aren't bad things at all."

          --Raymond Benson, author of JAMES BOND--THE UNION TRILOGY


"Anton’s Leap offers the reader a phantasmagoria of adventure, escape, political intrigue, near pornography and a whole lot more.  On the surface, it is the story of a defecting Russian ballet dancer; in reality, it is an in depth—and expert—exploration of, among other topics, ballet, opera, literature, psychology, commedia del’ arte, gymnastics, politics and various human orifices.  The touch may be light, but the intellectual subtext lingers.  The novel’s final word, 'leap," invites, if not demands, the reader to explore further."
    Jim Nicholson, playwright

"Anton's Leap" is a wild and wacky psycho-sexual romp that reads like a triple cross between ‘Tom Jones,’ ‘Myra Breckinridge’ and ‘The 39 Steps’...and all the other things that make life worth living."
      Simon Saltzman, Free lance arts journalist and theatre critic:  President of the Outer Critics Circle; Member New York Drama Desk; American and International Theatre Critics Association.

"Looking through the pages of the prestigious, Shanghai-based, literary magazine 'Rendition' which is written in Chinese, (I live in China), I see the photo of Frank Gagliano. There is an extensive article in the magazine about one of Gagliano's plays. Across the page from him is a photo of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a featured artist in the edition; beneath Gagliano's photo is one of Susan Sontag; at another near angle to Gagliano is Madonna; and at still another edge of Gagliano's smiling face, and referencing their Zeitgeist album, are the whitened pusses of The Smashing Pumpkins. . . .I just finished reading Gagliano's delicious, delightful and magnificently-sexy novel, ANTON'S LEAP; I loved it!  I'm thinking now, that if somehow, against restrictions: biological, geographical, and perhaps, moral --Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Susan Sontag, Madonna and The Smashing Pumpkins had managed to produce a child together, that child might well have written ANTON'S LEAP."


          Joseph Graves -- Artistic Director, Beijing Institute of World Theatre and Film)


"If improbable doesn't turn you on; don't read this book.
If chutzpah doesn't turn you on; don't read this book.
If Rabelais doesn't turn you on; don't read this book.
Those are the threads that Gagliano has
 used to weave together the most riveting 
writing of the 20th and early part of the 21st century. The 
author has chosen to create an hysterically funny biography
 which underlines one of the everlasting truths of all time;
dumb luck trumps random planning every time."

           Michael Kane, retired TV Director, retired Visiting
    Professor of Theater (Cal State Fullerton)