By Karen Isaacs
Sports, championships and betting shenanigans are often in the headlines, from legalizing sports betting, to the various point shaving scandals in college basketball, to “tanking” games and sets in tennis matches.
The Nap the British play by Richard Bean is now at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre to Nov. 11.
The title refers to the nap of snooker table; snooker is a British variation of billiards that is extremely popular. Like a billiard table, the fabric on the table’s surface has a nap – touch in one direction and it is smooth, but touch it the opposite direction and it feels rough.
It’s set in a smaller English town that is hosting a national championship match. A local boy, Dylan is an up-and-coming star of the sport who hopes to break in to the top tiers – and the top money with a win. He is surrounded by dysfunction: his father Bobby, and mother, Stella as well as the mother’s boyfriend, Danny, and Dylan’s so-called agent/manager, Tony, plus his backer, Waxxy, a transgendered person with a metal hand.
Bean is known for throwing curve balls at us and approaching subjects with an off-beat sense of a humor. His hit play, Young Marx, exhibited all of these traits, and One Man, Two Governors was pure farce.
These show up in The Nap. Tony the so-called manager/agent is a typical stereotype of British comedies: the twit.
Early in the play, Dylan is visited the two investigators (one from the police, the other from a sports agency) about possible collusion with gamblers. Dylan is shocked and vehement in his denials. As his mother arrives with her boyfriend in tow, it becomes possible that she supplied some information to Waxxy. As the play goes on, we learn more about the alleged plot to fix a match while Dylan becomes charmed by the police officer. The stakes get raised substantially higher when his mother and her boyfriend are kidnapped by people working for Waxxy. It seems there are some Asian gamblers that are upset about some “mistakes.”
It’s hard to describe much more of what happens without spoiling the plot. Let’s just say that some things aren’t what they seem.
Bean has included many references to classic films, starting with Moonstruck and the Nicolas Cage character. How Bobby and Tony try to recall the names of the films from weird clues is a running joke. That’s just one example of the parallels to classic films.
The acting is excellent. Ben Schnetzer captures Dylan perfectly – he’s a young, naïve, and a snooker nerd. Johanna Day is the blowsy, garish mother, and John Ellison Conlee the profane father. The snooker opponents – yes, we do see parts of a game – are played by Ahmed Aly Elsayed, both an actor and a real life snooker champion. We can’t forget Max Gordon Moore as the agent/manager.
Alexandra Billings plays Waxxy as literally a woman with velvet glove concealing steel underneath.
The production directed by Daniel Sullivan has a wonderful set that includes the seedy club where Dylan practices, the hotel room that is an altar to a snooker great, and Waxxy’s country house. Each is just right.
Sullivan might have upped the pace a bit at times: it seemed as though things were slower than this type of comedy should be.
Some of the humor is typically British which may not appeal to everyone. But you don’t have to know snooker to enjoy The Nap.
The Nap runs through November 11. For tickets contact Telecharge