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Paulanne Simmons
Lucy Komisar

Paulanne Simmons

"The Nap" Will Keep You Awake and Laughing

"The Nap"
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." [Simmons]

Lucy Komisar

"The Nap" a British telly-style sit-com about a mysterious con job

"The Nap."
Written by Richard Bean; Directed by Daniel Sullivan
Samuel J. Friedman Theater, 261 W. 47th St.
212-239-6200 http://thenapbroadway.com/
Opened Sept. 27, 2018; closes Nov. 11, 2018
Running time 2 hrs. 15 min.
Reviewed by Lucy Komisar

"The Nap" is about a championship game of snooker, which is a variety of billiards or pool. It began with British Army officers in India in the latter 1800s. The nap is the pile on the surface of the table. But that's not really what this play is about. That's only on the surface. Pun intended. Think hokey comic mystery.

Ben Schnetzer as Dylan Spokes and Johanna Day as his mother Stella. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Author Richard Bean is known for farces, but other works such as "One Man, Two Guvnors" are more subtle. Daniel Sullivan does fine with his tongue-in-cheek directing, though he usually takes on more sophisticated fare. This could have wandered off British telly. As could the actors.

Dylan (Ben Schnetzer) is a working-class guy in Sheffield, about 2 ½ hours by train north of London. His is a slightly dysfunctional family. Bobby (John Ellison Conlee), his father, sold drugs. His garish mother, Stella (Johanna Day), who lives elsewhere, seems out of it.

Ben Schnetzer as Dylan Spokes, Heather Lind as the cop Eleanor Lavery. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Dylan had to figure out how to make money in order to avoid jail or Afghanistan, where other working-class guys ended up. The answer was snooker. And he is good, about to play in a championship.

But all is not as it seems. Two cops, Mohammed Butt (Bhavesh Patel) and Eleanor Lavery (Heather Lind) arrive to insure the integrity of the big event. The cops worry he is vulnerable to "the syndicate." But how come Eleanor is so sexy? Unless she's a sex crimes decoy, it seems inappropriate.

Max Gordon Moore as the manager Tony Danlino, Joanna Day as Stella, Alexandra Billings as Waxy Bush. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Dylan's manager, Tony (Max Gordon Moore), is an over-the-top character in colorful suits who spends a lot of time answering his cell phone and pretending he is on another continent.

Then there is Waxy Bush (Alexandra Billings), the elegant transgender person who has been financing Dylan. Unexplained is the glove on one hand, sometimes black and jewel studded. Very tough, she has retained some testosterone. She speaks in malapropisms.

The championship game, Ethan Hova as competitor, Ben Schnetzer as Dylan. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Stella wants Dylan to throw one of the "frames" (games). Some gamblers will win big. But he is a very moral guy and doesn't much like what he sees going around. Then there is a dramatic event, a killing, and a threat to his mother.

So, what is it? A bizarre family comedy? A crime story? Clue: some of the characters are not who they seem to be. So, a combination of the two. Still, I kept thinking telly. Cast is fine, but definitely TV sitcom, diverting, but not memorable. For many audiences, that is just fine. [Komisar]


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