By Scott Brooks
Directed by Sam Viverito
Badlands Theatre Company (www.dupleXtheplay.com)
Midtown International Theatre Festival (www.midtownfestival.org for
WorkShop Theater, 312 W. 36th St., 4th Floor
Equity showcase (closes August 4, 2007)
Review by Byrne Harrison
They say real estate in New York is a tough business. For Nick (Michael Ferrell), a greedy but naive apartment shower for a real estate company, it's about to get a whole lot tougher. His latest client, Sergio (John Di Benedetto) is a diamond dealing thug who has a score to settle. He finds a mysterious squatter, Zelda (Jennifer-Scott Mobley) living in the furnished apartment that he was planning to crash in. And then, there's the murder and the bag of stolen diamonds. Do you think Nick will do the right thing and call the cops? Well, that would be dull, wouldn't it?
In this entertaining, though unevenly paced play written by Scott Brooks and directed by Sam Viverito, everyone is playing some sort of game. The fun is in following the twist and turns to discover who the best player is. And while some of the action doesn't ring quite true, and it isn't as taut as a crime drama should be, the play is a pleasant diversion.
As is often the case with festivals, the production values are minimal. A few pieces of furniture, black curtains and a couple of doors pretty much make up designer Ji Young Han's set. That leaves it to the actors to fill in the blanks for the audience. And, generally speaking, they do it well. Ferrell, with his boy-next-door looks, is convincing as a kid who has always skated by on his charm, but who thinks he's doing it by being clever. As the two grifters, Zelda and Molly, Jennifer-Scott Mobley and Diana De La Cruz play their parts with such conviction and sincerity, that up until the final moment, it's hard to be sure who is playing whom. Benim Foster, playing the roles of Abe Pearl, the murder victim, and Larry, a man who was being scammed by Molly and Zelda, is capable, though he plays the Hasidic diamond dealer Abe a bit stereotypically. His Larry, a Wall Street type who has more ego than brains, is a better fit. Also played a little broadly is Di Benedetto's Sergio, who at times comes across as a stock mobster. In Sergio's case, however, this leads to a very interesting scene where he explains that he is, in fact, the victim in this scheme and that it was the actions of others that forced his hand. This well-written moment reminds the audience that the characters they've been emotionally invested in are really nothing more than common thieves and Sergio, while extreme, is merely fighting for what's his. A very nice touch by Brooks.
Rounding out the cast is Dominic Marcus playing Duncan, who may or may not be an out-for-himself cop. Marcus is worth noting for keeping a cool head. In the reviewed performance, there was a prop/costume malfunction that effectively brought the action to a halt. Rather than getting rattled, Marcus played through it, even making light of it later in the scene. While this was probably a one-time occurrence, things like that show an actor's true mettle.
While the production would have benefited by some editing on Brooks' part and some attention to the pacing on Viverito's, DupleX nonetheless provides an entertaining evening.
Copyright 2007 Byrne Harrison
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