Ahmed Aly Elsayed, Ethan Hova, Ben Schnetzer photos by
You may not
be enticed into becoming a snooker fan by The Nap, but you’ll probably
enjoy the hubbub that surrounds the game in this British comedy, being given
its Broadway premiere by Manhattan Theatre Company.
play is by Richard Bean, whose credits include One Man, Two Guvnors, an
adaptation of the 18th Century commedia dell’arte farce Servant of Two
Masters; it made a star out of James Corden a few years back.
you may ask, what is snooker? Well, it’s the English version of pool (the table
game played by hitting balls with a stick, not the thing you swim in). Bean
uses his comedic instincts to tell the story of Dylan Spokes, a straight-up
young fellow from Sheffield, England, who’s proficiency at the sport has gotten
him into the snooker world championship games, which happen to take place in
all sorts of skullduggery afoot as shady characters try by hook or by crook to
convince Dylan to deliberately lose one of his frames so they can win heaps of
money by betting against him, and the con effort takes twisty turns. The
schemers are led by a formidable transgender woman by the name of Waxy Bush,
who runs a chain of beauty and waxing salons. The name is a good example of the
more louche aspects of Bean’s humor.
Gordon Moore, Johanna Day, Alexandra Billings
her male days, Waxy was the boyfriend of Dylan’s mother, Stella, who continues
to work for Waxy. With her current lumpish boyfriend, Danny, at her side,
Stella is prominently on hand, as is Dylan’s father, Bobby, an ex-drug dealer
who unloads a cornucopia of jokey commentary. Adding to the clatter is Dylan’s
lugubrious, glad-hand manager Tony.
also builds a romance for Dylan, when Eleanor enters the scene as a policewoman
working to make sure that the snooker playing and betting are on the up and up.
She’s accompanied by Mohammed Butt, introduced as “Integrity Officer,
International Centre for Sport Security.”
Max Gordon Moore, Bhavesh
Patel, Ben Schnetzer, John Ellison Conlee, Heather Lind
show has the air of a farce, but much of the humor is verbal, made funny in
part -- if sometimes incomprehensible -- by the rhythms of the regional British
accents used throughout. Bean’s script revels in such ploys as Waxy’s tendency
to malaprops and Bobby’s extended struggles to recall the titles of old movies,
which he feels can illustrate an oblique point he is trying to make. A big
laugh comes when one character is corrected on his insistent pronouncing of
duct tape as duck tape.
also some time spent in explaining the rules of snooker, which for some could
act as a soporific. The show’s title, by the way, is not a reference to
grabbing a bit of sleep. Rather it refers to the texture of the felt-like
material covering the snooker table and serves as a metaphor for Dylan’s
ethical approach to the game. “Playing with the nap,” he tells Eleanor, “the
ball will run straight with the natural line. Playing against the nap, the ball
can deviate and drift off line. I play straight. I honour the god of snooker,
and he, or let’s be fair, she looks after me.” Further affirming his
soulfulness, Dylan is a vegetarian.
the knowing direction of Broadway stalwart Daniel Sullivan, the cast handles
this paean to a sport and the chicanery that can accompany it with a gleeful
panache. Ben Schnetzer makes an engaging Broadway debut as Dylan. In addition
to showing off his skill at snooker, he stands up in admirable fashion against
the barrage of comic bits sent his way by John Ellison Conlee as Bobby, Johanna
Day as Stella, Thomas Jay Ryan as Danny and Max Gordon Moore’s Tony.
Lind’s Eleanor nicely seasons her hard-edged cop demeanor with a soupcon or two
of sexiness, and Bhavesh Patel is appropriately stern as the integrity officer.
Adding a frisson of extra interest to the casting, Waxy is played by the
transgender actress Alexandra Billlings, and she endows the character with a
playfully sinister air.
Rockwell’s cleverly detailed sets easily fall into place evoking a variety of Sheffield locales, from the gritty atmosphere of a basement snooker room in a British Legion
clubhouse to the sleek arena in which the championship games are played. The
latter is topped by a huge video screen providing a closeup of the action on
the snooker table, and the play ends by depicting the championship finale.
Schnetzer’s Dylan plays against Ahmed Aly Elsayed, who is a real-life snooker
for the show says the match is a real one, “anyone can win, so the play
actually has two possible endings.” It’s not giving away too much to say that
at the performance attended, the characters, after all the travail, celebrated
an expected happy ending. It could make you wonder if that talk of alternate
endings is just another con job.
posted October 2018
at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
West 47th Street
Telecharge.com Written by
Olivier Award nominee
Directed by Tony Award Winner Daniel Sullivan
Now Playing at
Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
until November 11