Snooker and crime mix in Bean's play The Nap
Richard Bean's latest work, The Nap, is essentially an old-fashioned British crime comedy for the stage, running at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. A comedy ostensibly about snooker — the British variant of billiards — is not exactly one’s first idea of what might contain comedic material.
Bean has proven otherwise by managing to extract as many laughs as possible from this ridiculous, sometimes-cute, sometimes-raucous new comedy. Under the assured direction of Daniel Sullivan, this Manhattan Theatre Club production is a breath of fresh air on Broadway.
Ben Schnetzer stars as Dylan Spokes, a snooker champion in the making, man-bun and vegetarianism pouring out of him like a Williamsburg hipster. He’s in his hometown of Sheffield, England, for the championship after a surprise win in Brussels. The only problem is that almost everyone around him is some kind of idiot in one way or another. It only adds to the wonderfully heady mix of comedy and caper that the show gladly wraps itself in like a warm blanket in a luxury hotel room.
Only adding to the madcap nature of Bean’s world is Dylan’s ex-con father, Bobby Stokes, here making the most of his Yorkshire accent from John Ellison Conlee. The man can’t do math and will gladly put down bets on his son to lose, but has his heart in the right place, somehow. Dylan’s manager, Tony DanLino, played with comedic charm by Max Gordon Moore, is a buffoon constantly avoiding damaging calls, and his mother Stella, embodied by Johanna Day, is a right mess. One can only imagine how Dylan came out mostly sane from his volatile upbringing. Rounding out this fine comedic ensemble are Alexandra Billings as the malapropism-prone gangster Waxy Bush. When Eleanor Lavery and Mohammad Butt, two seemingly professional investigators, come to question Dylan, things begin to spiral into absurdity.
Fine comedic performances are in great supply in The Nap. Lavery and Butt, played by the ravishing Heather Lind and hilarious Bhavesh Patel, respectively, have a buddy-cop humor that makes their ridiculous relationship all the more entertaining. Bobby and Stella are the perfect former couple with all the problems of the world on their shoulders, and Billings steals the show as Waxy Bush.
One might want to tune in especially for the verbal gags Waxy Bush is prone to, but laughter is ill-advised unless one wants this gangster to go for the neck.
Sullivan’s direction keeps things smooth and simple, while David Rockwell’s set is a fluid mélange of set pieces that give the work a cinematic feel. Spot-on costuming from Kaye Voyce and fun lighting design from Justin Townshend only add to the fun, while Lindsay Jones’ original music gives a rocker vibe to the world of snooker.
The comedic timing and fine touches give this world a palpability few comedies are able to command. The verbal play in this work is also just a joy. It doesn’t try to be anything more than it is, a romp and a half. The only critique is that of the ending, which feels too sudden in execution.