Tricycle Theatre Autumn 2008
Robert Massey's play is partly a tense who's-screwing-who thriller and partly a very funny comedy. It works on both levels and even better at the moments that they intersect, the menace and humour bouncing off each other with real theatrical excitement.
The play may not tell us much about the human condition or the state of the universe, but it is a fun ride.
A compulsive gambler is deeply in debt to the local casino owner, who also dabbles in sex phone lines, armed robbery and, of course, the inflicting of grievous bodily harm.
Along with his father-in-law, a former associate and long-time foe of Mr. Big, the gambler pleads for more time to pay what he owes, leading the criminal to offer a take-it-or-leave-it deal, one mildly dangerous favour to clear the accounts.
Will they do it? Will they be able to do it? And will their evident failure at the task get them in deeper? Or is it a double-cross? Massey keeps you guessing right up to the play's final moments.
While this plot is working itself out with real tension and the threat of real danger, we find ourselves repeatedly laughing out loud. The criminal's thuggish son is terminally stupid, with a talent for finding new and original ways to be befuddled (He's convinced Big Brother is a TV documentary).
The two good guys are accompanied by a friend, a blindly cheerful guy with no sense whatever of how inappropriate, counterproductive and even dangerous his innocent interjections are.
And along the way we get hilarious tales of offstage characters and events - a stammering phone sex worker whose disability actually makes her attractive to customers, someone's purchase of a lifetime supply of toilet rolls just because they were on sale, and an explanation of just how and why the lottery is fixed - and equally funny onstage antics, including the desperate attempt to keep one character from seeing a particular photo.
The production, from Dublin's Fishamble Theatre, is directed by Jim Culleton to exploit all its tension and comedy without losing the energy of either, and to paper over the script's few minor weaknesses.
(The play was evidently generated by the desire to dramatise the lives of Dublin's taxi drivers, and the central characters are drivers, but the focus is no longer on that element, and their jobs are an odd and irrelevant appendage.)
Alan King (gambler), Eamonn Hunt (father-in-law) and Luke Griffin (dumb son) are all excellent, but in their very different ways Bryan Murray as the intimidating criminal and John Lynn as the talk-too-much buddy steal all their scenes.
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Review of Rank - Tricycle Theatre 2008