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The Nap

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors 


The NapAhmed Aly Elsayed, Ethan Hova, Ben Schnetzer. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors 

If you are up for the "fast-paced, comedy-thriller," promised by this production, you may find yourself snookered by Richard Bean's latest play, The Nap.  Previously, Bean succeeded in solidly potting the cue balls (so to speak) in One Man, Two Guvnors, his British farce that had nothing to do with snooker and earned a 2012 Tony Award for its star, James Corden.  Unfortunately, The Nap is not as solid, not as thrilling and is nowhere as hilarious.

A Manhattan Theater Club Production at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, The Nap has some loony moments and an able cast.  Perhaps it is not as laugh-out-loud funny because snooker humor is not most Americans' preferred cup of tea.  And, you may ask, (as I did), what is snooker anyway?  Snooker, say the aficionados, is a game devised by Sir Neville Chamberlain in late 19th century India, a variation of billiards and pool.  The Nap refers to the directional pattern of the wooly cloth covering the billiard table.

The World Snooker Championships meet yearly in Sheffield, a city in northern England, where the British Legion snooker room is the Act I setting of this play.  One of the sport's up-and-comers, Dylan Spokes (Ben Schnetzer), a straight-arrow sort of bloke who is nuts about the sport and is preparing for the competition with a vegetarian diet and a hard-earned sense of right and wrong, remarkable considering his two problematic parents.  You must have sympathy for their son.  Dylan's loudmouth Dad, Bobby (John Ellison Conlee), played snooker himself before turning to drugs and robbing banks.  He now comments freely about everything, although he has memory problems and is dependent on old movies as clues.  This disability makes for one funny moment that goes a long way.

Joanna Day (memorable in Sweat), is excellent as his lowlife mother, a blowsy Stella, who brings along her unsavory, very smelly boyfriend, Danny Killeen (Thomas Jay Ryan).  Also showing up is Dylan's flashy agent, Tony (Max Gordon Moore), with cell-phone and business cards in hand. 

Now the "thriller" part.  Mohammad Butt (Bhavesh Pat), an official in the tournament, shows up with a fetching detective, Eleanor Lavery (Heather Lind), warning Dylan that a fix is in.  One-armed trans gangster Waxy Bush, played with delicious improbity by transsexual, Alexandra Billings, lets Dylan know that there is big money on this tournament and Dylan must tank the fourth round.  A syndicate is involved and if Dylan does not cooperate, Waxy warns of a bad outcome for his mum, eventually proven when Waxy kidnaps Stella and the reeking Danny.

The twists take fast turns. Detective Eleanor shows up in Dylan's hotel room for some hanky-panky and before she leaves, Dylan agrees to help the police trap Waxy and the syndicate.  Yet how law-abiding are these police?

Off-beat characters with Bean's fast wacky dialogue and a challenging Yorkshire dialect with director Daniel Sullivan's snappy staging manage to pull off an amusing, but hardly riotous farce.  Along with Billings' scene-stealing moments as a no-nonsense criminality and running malapropisms ("I don’t like reading. It’s in one eye, and out the other"), Ben Schnetzer, in his Broadway debut, is credible in breathing life into a dedicated snooker player. 

David Rockwell designed an appropriately dingy snooker meeting room that smoothly transforms into a hotel room, country living room, and finally the World Snooker Championship, featuring billiard table and players, all projected on a large screen. Dylan's competition is four-time U.S. National Snooker Champion, Ahmed Ay Elsayed.   Did Dylan tank the frame, you wonder? 

Sorry, no spoiler here, no suspense either. A little snooker goes a long way.

The Nap
Manhattan Theatre Club
Samuel J. Friedman Theater
261 - West 47 Street, New York, NY
Previews: Sept. 5, 2018. Opening: Sept. 23, 2018. Closing: Oct. 21, 2018
Manhattan Theatre Club Link
Running time: Two hours, 25 min. One intermission.
Cast: Alexandra Billings, John Ellison Conlee, Johanna Day, Ahmed Aly Elsayed, Ethan Hova, Heather Lind, Max Gordon Moore, Bhavesh Patel, Thomas Jay Ryan, Ben Schnetzer
Playwright: Richard Bean
Directed: Daniel Sullivan

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors
September 2018