“Billiards players prefer a heavy Nap/slower cloth because it helps them with soft cannons and curved cue ball deliveries, such as Jennies. The Table is ALWAYS Brushed, Blocked, and Ironed WITH the Nap i.e. in the SMOOTH direction.”
Playwright Richard Bean’s humorous, nay buoyant piece, has the feel of a Damon Runyon farce. Characters are quirky, relationships curious, grift something of a romp. Bean manages droll language without being less than authentic while leading us through a cunning maze. Two parentheses using movie references arrive a marriage of Charades and Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s On First?” The splendid ensemble has pitch perfect, yet intelligible accents (Dialect Coach-Ben Furey) and masterful, unselfconscious timing.
Ben Schnetzer, Max Gordon Moore
Working class Sheffield (England) lad, Dylan Spokes (grounded/appealing Ben Schnetzer), might’ve ended up on the dole and/or dealing drugs like his father, Bobby (John Ellison Conlee, credible/amusing), but for facility with Snooker.* (Bobby sold to finance Dylan’s sport.) Instead, he’s a vegetarian into self-realization. With dad’s encouragement, the game, in essence a way out, has been central to the young man’s life since a teenager. He’s very good. We meet during the semi-finals before World Championship.
Don’t leave. Most everything you need to know about Snooker is vividly observed (on screen and in real time) and carefully explained by two wry commentators during final matches. Before that, it’s the game outside tables that counts.
Max Gordon Moore, Johanna Day, Alexandra Billings
While practicing in the Sheffield legion hall, the kind of facility where lights must be paid for incrementally or go out, Dylan is visited by the Integrity Officer for International Sports Security (a nicely pompous Bhavesh Patel) and Police Detective Eleanor Levy (tough and teasing Heather Lind). Corruption in sports betting is rampant. They want to make sure he’s clean. The player’s integrity is palpable.
Next on the scene is manager, Tony DanLino, replete in an orange suit. (Max Gordon Moore, offering a master class of delightfully cocky sleaze in both physical and emotional performance.) “How’s it feel to be on the foothills of Shangri-fucking-La?” he asks Bobby. Think of Pigpen (the Peanuts character) without the dirt. Wherever Tony goes, a whirlwind of enthusiasm and innuendo swirls around him. The hustler’s take will be 20% plus tax.
Max Gordon Moore, Bhavesh Patel, Ben Schnetzer, John Ellison Conlee, Heather Lind
Dylan’s mother Stella (Johanna Day), think peroxided trailer trash, then arrives unexpectedly with her current squeeze, the admittedly smelly Danny Killeen (Thomas Jay Ryan). Stella’s always got a racket going. Today she’s hawking forged, Handicapped Parking tickets and Marks & Spencer steaks from her handbag. This is not a maternal visit.
It seems that gangster Waxy Bush is on her way to secure a piece of upcoming snooker action. Monikered for a chain of waxing and nail parlors, the transgender woman had a relationship with Stella as Mickey Bush and now employs her.
As brought to vivid life by the marvelous Alexandra Billings, the character is an inspired conceit. Big, feminine, watchful, and flamboyantly stylish, she unwittingly peppers her confident speech with a series of priceless malaprops. Oh, and having lost an arm, don’t ask, she wears a black glove and manages with one. Brava. Billings looks great, moves like a cat, and has unerring comic timing. This will be a hard act to follow.
Waxy has paid Stella for information that promised Dylan would throw his last match. The lad, of course, was never told, nor would he have complied. Not only did Waxy lose big, but a cartel of menacing Filipinos lost huge on her recommendation. In short, Dylan has to actually throw a round of the championship to make up the money – or else. “Life is a series of disappointments and appointments,” Waxy shrugs. “Write them down, preferably in a diary.” And when Bobby objects: “Who’s making allegations?! Are you the alligator?”
Ahmed Aly Elsayed, Ethan Hove, Ben Schnetzer
Will Dylan acquiesce? How about when Stella and Danny are kidnapped by Waxy and threatened with death? Will telling the authorities help? Can Eleanor really pole dance? What’s a “Snooker Smurf?” Why is there no orange ball? Will Dylan win?
Ah, the championship. When Dylan and favored player Baghawi Quereshi (Ahmed Aly Elsayed, who’s really a snooker champion) “pot” balls in the last round, the actors are actually playing. Anything can happen. The mechanics of the last scene are fixed, but our hero literally may not win! I saw him win.
The Nap offers a laugh at every turn, not evoked by slapstick like The Play That Went Wrong or Bean’s own One Man,Two Guvnors, but rather by clever twists and swift, low key turns.
Director Daniel Sullivan, known for effortless realism, has brought that faculty to this rollicking play making every eccentricity and deception seem natural. Characters are all of a piece. Pacing is deft.
Scenic Designer David Rockwell does a swell job with the championship scenes.
Kaye Voyce’s Costumes are tacky and evocative. In collaboration with Ann Ford-Coates Hair and Make-Up, the ladies dress characters, not actors.
*Snooker: a game played with cues on a billiard table in which the players use a cue ball (white) to pocket the other balls (fifteen red and six colored) in a set order.
Photos by Joan Marcus
Opening: Bhavesh Patel,Thomas Jay Ryan, Ahmed Aly Elsayed, Max Gordon Moore Ben Schnetzer, John Ellison Conlee, Johanna Day, Heather Lind, Alexandra Billings, Ethan Hova
Manhattan Theatre Club presents
The Nap Richard Bean
Directed by Daniel Sullivan
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street