Website Review

Mark Bretz – Ladue News, November 3, 2014

Story: The times are tough in County Kildare, Ireland, and business hasn’t been good at the convenience store run by married couple Aiden and Dee. In fact, they’ve been forced to rent out their house and move their family of four into the back of their small store to make ends meet.

Dee has had enough of the hardscrabble existence and has applied for a job as a receptionist. That doesn’t go well, though, and the desperation continues for them, as well as their best friend, JP, who was left at the altar by Dee several years earlier when she decided to marry Aiden instead, but still hangs around.

Opportunity, though, unexpectedly knocks in the guise of resident harpy Gertie, a sniping, insufferable harridan who takes pride in viciously gossiping about everyone in the village except her own son and his penchant for pornography. Gertie brazenly tells Aiden that she purchases at other stores items that he himself carries, but she doesn’t mind in the least asking him to check her lottery ticket for winning numbers.

To his astonishment, Aiden sees that Gertie possesses a $250,000 winner, which he neglects to inform her. Upon her departure, he and JP contemplate how they might steal away her fortune in clever, fail-proof fashion, calling upon Dee’s brainpower as well. Will their get-rich-quick scheme come to fruition?

Highlights: Max & Louie Productions has mounted the U.S. premiere of a two-act comedy by Irish playwright Robert Massey which originally was staged in Dublin in 2013. Thanks to the delightful efforts of its quartet of players, this Chancers delivers on its promise to keep an audience laughing at the wacky ineptitude of its characters.

Other Info: Truth be told, the opening night performance was marred by a number of odd pauses and clumsy interactions between the players, who seemed too often to be rudderless and lacking any meaningful direction by Sydnie Grosberg Ronda.

Despite that apparent lapse, the production has more than its share of hysterical, side-splitting moments, most especially when Nathan Bush and Jared Sanz-Agero, as Aiden and JP respectively, improvise a plot to steal that precious lottery ticket from the grasping hands of the incorrigible Gertie.

With Bush more or less playing straight man to Sanz-Agero’s byzantine thinking process, the first act is fitfully funny in its controlled but chaotic fashion. Sanz-Agero is uproarious as the not-easily-offended JP, who fuels his frenzied thoughts with sundry junk food and soda to which he helps himself from Aiden’s shelves. Bush is a fitting complement as the uncertain Aiden, who oscillates between his desire for financial security and the moral quandary of participating in a robbery.

For whatever reason, their machinations bring to mind the hijinks that permeate the 1955 British comedy, The Ladykillers, high praise, indeed.

Donna Weinsting is a delight to behold as the eminently distasteful Gertie, whose surly personality seems to provide all the justice necessary for wresting away her new-found fortune. Weinsting savors every opportunity to be unpleasant and does so in her typically polished fashion.

Pamela Reckamp conveys the exasperation and desperation of the other more or less ‘normal’ character, the frustrated Dee. She’s especially amusing in a scene where Gertie’s perverted son gets her into an unsavory phone conversation when he unexpectedly answers Gertie’s phone.

A special nod goes to scenic designers Margery & Peter Spack, who fill the stage with a realistic looking Irish confectionery, with a black and white tile floor and even a poster advertising the Killarney Walking Festival, as well as chips and candies that sport some unfamiliar brand names.

John Cameron Carter adds lighting, John Clark provides the sound and Rai Feltmann shows a whimsical touch with the props. Nichole Nelson’s scenic art provides a pleasant background for the convenience store setting, while Marjorie Williamson’s program cover design amusingly accentuates the characters’ obsession with the allure of instant money.

Hopefully, Ronga will tighten the erratic pacing and hone the focus of Massey’s humorous effort in future performances, because the talent obviously is there. As it is, Chancers has many more funny moments than flat ones.

And, to underscore that fleeting feeling of impending wealth, Max & Louie is giving each patron a “Scratchers” lottery ticket at the theater. You may already be a winner.