Ann Pollack – St. Louis Eats and Drinks, October 31, 2014
If it’s an Irish comedy, somehow it’s perfectly logical that it’s a dark comedy. That’s “Chancers“, Max & Louie Productions newest offering, now running at the Kranzberg Arts Center.
This is the American premiere of the play by Robert Massey, which recently finished its Dublin run. Chance, and chancers, refer to the lottery, whose tickets are sold at the small grocery store owned by Aiden and Dee (which we hear pronounced “Day”). The Irish tiger, the booming economy that so buoyed that nation’s economy in the late 1990’s, has left the building, the city and the country itself; the grocery is near the bottom of a downward spiral.
And is this the stuff of comedy? Well, yes, but the comedy born of desperation and an urge to escape for just a moment (or perhaps the rest of their lives) the unpleasant reality of Right Now.
It seems that one of their few customers has a lottery ticket whose numbers she wants Aiden to check. It just happens to be a big winner – and Aidan can’t bring himself to tell her. Instead, he phones his pal JP to figure out what to do, bringing the last of the four characters on to the stage. This is excellent ensemble work, Nathan Bush as Aiden, easy-going and optimistic and unwilling to admit, most of the time, just how bad things are, and Pamela Reckamp playing Dee, quieter, a realist and more desperate. Gertie, the customer, is memorably brought to us by Donna Weinsting, and Jared Sanz-Agero shows off the aggressive JP, especially in a prolonged scene with Aiden as they consider the options for dealing with Gertie and her ticket. Good characterizations from all.
The accents, courtesy of dialect coach Katy Keating, work well, although the dialogue is not for the faint of ear, especially if you grasp Irish slang and pronunciations. (So glad that Gertie is not a sweet little old lady, by the way.) And the set, meticulously detailed by Margery and Peter Spack, looks great and works very well.
Massey’s story is a good one, subtle details about the characters leaving us thinking about them and how things might work out. That scene between JP and Aiden seems to drag a little, but that’s about the only tightening that might be possible, although this is Irish storytelling, not taut thriller drama. Sydnie Grosberg Ronga’s direction keeps things moving at a pleasant stroll, right in keeping with the spirit of the play.