By Lucy Komisar
“The Nap” is about a championship game of snooker, which is a variety of billiards or pool. It began with British Army officers in India in the latter 1800s. The nap is the pile on the surface of the table. But that’s not really what this play is about. That’s only on the surface. Pun intended. Think hokey comic mystery.
Author Richard Bean is known for farces, but other works such as “One Man, Two Guvnors” are more subtle. Daniel Sullivan does fine with his tongue-in-cheek directing, though he usually takes on more sophisticated fare. This could have wandered off British telly. As could the actors.
Dylan (Ben Schnetzer) is a working-class guy in Sheffield, about 2 ½ hours by train north of London. His is a slightly dysfunctional family. Bobby (John Ellison Conlee), his father, sold drugs. His garish mother, Stella (Johanna Day), who lives elsewhere, seems out of it.
Dylan had to figure out how to make money in order to avoid jail or Afghanistan, where other working-class guys ended up. The answer was snooker. And he is good, about to play in a championship.
But all is not as it seems. Two cops, Mohammed Butt (Bhavesh Patel) and Eleanor Lavery (Heather Lind) arrive to insure the integrity of the big event. The cops worry he is vulnerable to the syndicate. But how come Eleanor is so sexy? Unless she‘s a sex crimes decoy, it seems inappropriate.
Dylan’s manager, Tony (Max Gordon Moore), is an over-the-top character in colorful suits who spends a lot of time answering his cell phone and pretending he is on another continent.
Then there is Waxy Bush (Alexandra Billings), the elegant transgender person who has been financing Dylan. Unexplained is the glove on one hand, sometimes black and jewel studded. Very tough, she has retained some testosterone. She speaks in malapropisms.
Stella wants Dylan to throw one of the “frames” (games). Some gamblers will win big. But he is a very moral guy and doesn‘t much like what he sees going around. Then there is a dramatic event, a killing, and a threat to his mother.
So, what is it? A bizarre family comedy? A crime story? Clue: some of the characters are not who they seem to be. So, a combination of the two. Still, I kept thinking telly. Cast is fine, but definitely TV sitcom, diverting, but not memorable. For many audiences, that is just fine.
“The Nap.” Written by Richard Bean; Directed by Daniel Sullivan. Samuel J. Friedman Theater, 261 W. 47th St. New York City. 212-239-6200. Opened Sept. 27, 2018; closes Nov. 11, 2018. Running time 2 hrs 15 min. 10/26/18.