Judith Newmark – St. Louis Post Dispatch, October 24, 2014

Irish playwright relishes his comedy’s American debut

Dublin playwright Robert Massey realizes that the title of his comedy “Chancers“, which makes its U.S. debut this week at Max & Louie, isn’t American slang. But he’s not worried. He thinks it’s one of those words so deliciously apt that it conveys its meaning almost on sound alone.

And if not, he’s ready to elaborate.

A chancer is “someone trying to get one over on you, someone willing to try his luck — perhaps a bit of a con artist,” the playwright explains. If it’s not exactly an honorable description, it’s not criminal, either.

Well, not as a rule.

Chancers” centers on a married couple (played here by Pamela Reckamp and Nathan Bush) in serious financial trouble. Their business, a small shop in Kildare, is not only failing but now must double as their inadequate home. They’ve been forced to rent out their real house to a stranger to make a little money — and if the shop is repossessed, as it may be, they won’t even have that. The wife is looking for another job but can’t find a thing.

“Their marriage is very good, very tight,” Massey says. “But they’re drowning.”

Then a woman he describes as “the local battle-ax” buys a winning lottery ticket at the shop. Can the couple retrieve it? Should they?

A big hit in Ireland, “Chancers” struck a chord when it debuted there last year, Massey says. “We’ve lived through very tough times here. Men and women I’ve worked with for years have lost their jobs. Some businesses have had to close down.

“I just used a small scale to reflect big themes. I think the play is pretty funny. But a lot of comedy is rooted in terrible things.”

A lifelong Dubliner of 40, Massey takes a businessman’s look at Ireland’s financial picture. The managing director of Bostik, an adhesives company in Ireland, he holds degrees in marketing and lives in suburban Dublin with his wife, Kathleen, and their two daughters. His first play, “Deadline“, was staged in Ireland just eight years ago; since then, he’s done four more, including one commissioned by Dublin’s famed Abbey Theatre.

That’s an extremely successful (and rapid) ascent by playwriting standards. Still, Massey continues to enjoy his “day job”. Coincidentally — and, he adds, luckily — a Bostik conference in Milwaukee starts on Monday. That means he will be in the United States anyway, easily able to travel to St. Louis for the “Chancers” debut here. He will be the guest of honor for a post-show discussion at the opening.

“The news about the Max & Louie production came from out of the blue,” Massey says, adding that it’s wonderful to have a publisher, so that troupes around the world can consider his work for their stages. “It’s like a fairy tale.” He’s a lot luckier than his characters, he says; his chances are paying off.