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"The Nap" Will Keep You Awake and Laughing
Directed by Daniel Sullivan
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47 Street
Opened Sept. 27, 2018
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Sept. 30, 2017
Ben Schnetzer, Johanna Day. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Contrary to its misleading title, "The Nap," Richard Bean's newest offering, making its American premiere under the direction of Daniel Sullivan, has nothing to do with sleep. Rather it's a rowdy and riveting farce about snooker, the English version of pool, and the trials and tribulations of Dylan Spokes (a solid Ben Schnetzer), a young, working-class champion who must triumph over the machinations of his mother, Stella (Johanna Day) and her insidious former boyfriend Waxy Bush (the stupendous Alexandra Billings), now a one-armed, transgender woman, who is also Dylan's sponsor.
"The Nap," set in the town of Sheffield, begins calmly enough with Dylan and his father, Bobby (John Ellison Conlee), a former drug dealer, in a British Legion snooker room, discussing the upcoming match. The plot thickens when the Integrity Officer for International Sports Security, Mohammad Butt (Bhavesh Patel) arrives with police detective Eleanor Lavery (the sweet and spicy Heather Lind), a young lady with the kind of looks that make a lot of men wish they'd committed a crime. They take Dylan's urine and ask questions. They're pretty sure there's been foul play and they want to find out who's guilty.
Soon others arrive to wish Dylan well: his agent, Tony DanLino (Max Gordon Moore), who wears a different loud and tasteless suit in each scene and is a study in sleaziness; his mother, a woman for whom the word "bimbo" was coined, with her new boyfriend, the smelly and submissive Danny Killeen (Thomas Jay Ryan); and Waxy Bush, a cross between Lady Bracknell and Mrs. Malaprop, whose ability to butcher the English language constantly astonishes.
It's hard to determine which of these characters is the most outlandish. But I'd give the prize to Billings, whose precise timing and deadpan delivery never fail to amaze and amuse.
Laughter, however, is not all that's brewing. Soon we find out Waxy needs Dylan to throw a frame so she can stay alive and thrive. There are vicious Filipinos somewhere who've lost a bundle because of bad tips she's fed them (thanks to Dylan's mother and father), and now she has to make good.
Ben Schnetzer, Heather Lind. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Dylan regards any kind of cheating as a blot on his personal virtue and a crime against the integrity of the game. But when Waxy threatens to kill his mother if he won't cooperate and demonstrates her ruthlessness by shooting Danny in the head, his resolve melts. His heart is melting too, as Dylan realizes he's fallen in love with Eleanor, a former pole dancer and accomplished seductress.
The championship match, live onstage and simulcast on video, is both a nail-biter and a side-splitter. The solemnly intoned commentary is a perfect mimicry of all those sportscaster who think they're more important than the game.
And so this clever comedy deftly satirizes gangster movies, televised sports competitions, gender roles and probably a lot more if you give it enough thought. The story advances with delicious speed and many detours. And thanks to Sullivan's deft directions and a cast adept in the ridiculous, we happily skip along. There will be no dozing at "The Nap."
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