Chief New York Theatre Critic
Outer Critics Circle / Drama Desk Member
One would think mounting a Broadway show about snooker would be perilous. Richard Bean’s “The Nap,” currently running at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, unfortunately confirms that fear. Think “The Hustler” staged as a farce with poorly developed characters whose conflicts are not believable and drive a less than satisfying plot. Dylan Spokes (an energetic and engaging Ben Schnetzer) is a young Sheffield snooker player who has become a world player of the game. He finds himself the object of a “complicated” plot to recover the large amount money that a “foreign” syndicate lost betting on one of his games – a bet that resulted from a bizarre conversation between Dylan’s mother Stella (a dazed and disconnected Johanna Day) and Waxy Bush (a wooden and fearful Alexandra Billings) Stella’s transgender boss who is missing her left hand.
Joining Stella and Waxy are Mohammad Butt (a suspicious Bhavesh Patel) “Integrity Officer for the International Centre for Sport Security” and Eleanor Lavery (a transparent and wily Heather Lind) “of the National Crime Agency.” It would do disservice to “The Nap” to disclose the “shenanigans” Stella, Waxy, Mohammad, and Eleanor” involve themselves in to reach their goal of recovering the one-hundred-twenty thousand pounds lost in the ill-informed bet. It is enough to say that most of the story is predictable. The mistaken identities, the subterfuge, and the attempt at farce do not rescue the weak script. Nor does Daniel Sullivan’s direction. Unfortunately, the enterprise lies flat throughout the two hours.
The cast seems to do its best to enliven “The Nap” including Max Gordon Moore’s portrayal of Dylan’s whacky agent Tony DanLino. But without Ben Schnetzer’s commitment to his character Dylan Spokes and John Ellison Conlee’s supportive performance as Dylan’s father Bobby, the play would proceed without energy or nuance. Both actors understand their characters fully and deliver believable and energetic performances. To be fair to the rest of the cast, they had less to “dig into” in the weak characters they were given to portray.
David Rockwell’s scenic design is easy on the eye – it does not as Waxy declares about reading “go in one eye and out the other.” The British Legion Snooker Room, the Hotel Room at the St. George Hotel, Waxy’s Country Living Room, and The World Snooker Championship Final are given authentic detail by Mr. Rockwell. Justin Townsend’s lighting is appropriate as is Lindsay Jones’s original music and sound design.
As in any Shakespearean tragi-comedy, the protagonist is the victor in the end and gets reunited with “his love.” The journey to that celebration is long and bumpy. Some actors are difficult to understand, and the dialects wobble a bit more than they might. Some of the rough edges might resolve during the run but that seems unlikely given the script’s less than satisfying dramatic development.
The cast of “The Nap” features Alexandra Billings, John Ellison Conlee, Johanna Day, Ahmed Aly Elsayed, Ethan Hova, Heather Lind, Max Gordon Moore, Bhavesh Patel, Thomas Jay Ryan, and Ben Schnetzer.
“The Nap’s” creative team includes David Rockwell (scenic design), Kaye Voyce (costume design), Justin Townsend (lighting design), Lindsay Jones (sound design), Anne Ford-Coates (hair and make-up design), Ben Furey (dialect coach), and Thomas Schall (fight director).
“The Nap” currently runs at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street). Tickets are available at www.Telecharge.com, by calling 212-239-6200, or by visiting The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre Box Office at 261 West 47th Street. For more information about “The Nap,” please visit http://thenapbroadway.com/. Running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes including one intermission.
Photo: Ben Schnetzer and Johanna Day. Credit: Joan Marcus.