Website Review

Judith Newmark –, November 6, 2014

So far, Aiden and Dee are hanging on — just barely hanging on. Their little convenience store in County Kildare is failing. They’ve rented out their house, forcing them to move with their little boys into two rooms behind the market. Dee is looking for a job, but it’s nearly useless; nobody’s hiring these days.

Aiden (Nathan Bush) and Dee (Pamela Reckamp) have a good marriage, but love won’t put food on the table. “Chancers” — a comedy by Irish playwright Robert Massey, making its U.S. debut at Max & Louie Productions — may take place in a crayon-colored market (a bright creation from set designers Margery and Peter Spack), but shadows are massing right outside.

The situation seems suddenly worse when a dreadful neighbor, Gertie (Donna Weinsting), asks Aiden to check her lottery ticket, which she did not even buy from him. He turns pale at the sight: This woman, who criticizes all the time and looks down on him and Dee, has won a fortune. In an uncharacteristic burst of (silent) jealousy, Aiden lies, claiming her ticket is worthless.

Now, can he get his hands on it? His pal JP (Jared Sanz-Agero), a genial idiot who continues to dream big despite the evidence, thinks they can, and he’s willing to try almost anything to make that happen.

Under the direction of Sydnie Grosberg Ronga, Bush and Reckamp fuel the comedy with a pungent combination of affection and desperation. Bush, meticulously organizing the shelves to tempt customers who never come, shows the careful smile of a man who must seem cheery when he feels anything but. Reckamp’s careful grooming for a job interview — and her collapse into a plastic chair afterward — charts the same territory. Weinsting and Sanz-Agero add plenty of spice.

Aiden and Dee have always lived by the rules — but that hasn’t worked for them. “How wrong can you be about who you really are?” Dee wonders. Her question lies just beneath all the jokes and physical hijinks that make the play fun.

Massey’s comedy holds up nearly all the way through, with lively dialogue and vivid characters. But the ending goes wrong. That’s where lots of comedies and even skits lose their way, of course. If Massey took one more pass at “Chancers” it could pay off big.