By Sandi Durell
Welcome to the world of Guys and Dolls – at least in spirit, speech and time period – a throwback written by Scott Alan Evans (who also directs) and Jeffrey Couchman based on Damon Runyon stories “Dancing Dan’s Christmas” and “The Three Wise Guys.” It’s the latest offering from TACT on this 25th Anniversary Season.
It’s Christmas Eve 1932 and there’s a lot going on in mobster-ville and bootleg-land.
The stage is set with hanging sheets used as backdrops for silhouettes as a shooting star in the shape of a diamond emerges larger and larger and mayhem breaks out at Shapiro’s Fine Jewelry in a robbery – screams, shouts, sirens all resolve at Good Time Charley’s Speakeasy operated by Charlie (Ron McClary); where the characters arrive one by one . . . bootie Blondy (Karl Kenzler), leaving the business cause he sees the end to prohibition, is waxing nostalgic about his lost love Miss Clarabelle Cobb “a most pleasant doll. . . even if she does take a runout powder…” The Dutchman (Joel Jones) wearing a stolen ill-fitting Santa suit touting signage “Moe Lewinsky’s Apparel – A Good Fit at a Fitting Price,” in an attempt to hide from a bookie; as Dancing Dan (Jeffrey C. Hawkins) breezes in and is reminded of the fact that the gal he’s seeing, Miss Muriell O’Neill, is also the apple of Heine Schmitz’s eye – a major gangster – (played by John Plumpis who also plays Jasper and a Cop) necessitating Dan to feel the need to ask for the Santa Suit as a disguise. They all toast the season with Charlie’s hot Tom and Jerry concoction until the much-feared Heine Schmitz walks in looking for Dancing Dan, as the men attempt to hide his presence – Good Time Charley “ I do not see him all day.”
There are no word contractions, part of the mobster speak of the day, and there are numerous comic portrayals and one liners that tickle the funny bone. It’s hide and seek and a lot going on when, Mryton (also McClary), a butler, walks into the speakeasy desperate to find a Santa and sees Dancing Dan – just who he needs for an elegant Great Neck, L.I. party where the very rich and connected Bitsy Albright is throwing a shindig for a boys school.
They make a deal and Dan and his now two elf helpers (Dutchman and Blondy) get into Myrton’s car for the drive, The Dutchman and Mryton finding they have a lot in common when it comes to the horses. They are next in a sitting room in the mansion where we meet a rigid, not pleased Bitsy Albright (Dana Smith-Croll, also as Gamma) attempting to keep the rowdy Whitley School boys in tow as they wait for Santa. Next we meet Muriel O’Neill (Victoria Mack, and as Miss Clarabelle Cobb), the apple of Heine’s eye, and Dan’s girlfriend. Heine also happens to be at the party having delivered the champagne. Surprises all around, lots of wacky conversations as the characters keep popping in and out. Muriel’s grandma, Gammer O’Neill, makes her appearance wishing that Santa would fill her stocking with something really nice this year. She just loves Christmas! Unexpected relationships arise as Bitsy makes a play for Heine, and the guys just want to get out and drive to Pennsylvania to seek safety leading them to yet another unexpected encounter at a barn involving “a sick doll.” And there’s an adorable bed scene – the least expected!
It’s amazing how much can happen in one evening! It’s all tongue in cheek, and even mobsters have a heart, especially on Christmas Eve.
TACTnyc.org – Beckett Theatre, 410 West 42 Street, – 90 minutes run time thru April 14