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|A CurtainUp Review
One look at Neil Patel's restaurant set and you know that you're about to see a comedy, probably. about gambling, and with characters whose lives are as askew as the giant one-armed bandit machine and crooked window. Director Ethan McSweeny gamely uses this innovative set, which also includes an area for alternating scenes outside the restaurant, to keep Scott Marshall Taylor's comedy zipping along.
To clarify the title -- it's the name of a 12-year-old race horse with a record that hardly lives up to the last three letters of its name. That doesn't stop Oscar (Robert Walden), a gambler nattily arrayed in a Runyonesque pinstriped suit, from following a hunch that betting on Tamicanfly in the sixth race at a track clear across the country will be a sure win rather than a longshot. And that's where the first problem with Mr. Taylor's play surfaces. Oscar has little Runyonesque flair.
Since Oscar is blind he needs someone to drive him to Yakima, Washington to place that bet. That someone is his unwilling grandson C.J. (Chris Messina). And so, what is billed as a racetrack comedy also assumes touches of the road genre film. The sullen and angry C.J. sees the various mishaps along the way as omens of Oscar's wrong-headedness, but Oscar is undeterred. Like another Oscar, he has an epigram for C. J's every objection ("The truth has as many sides as rubber balls" is one of the least pedestrian ones). That brings us to another problem. Oscar, the gambler, is more wily than Wildean.
Oscar's and C.J.'s journey is made in a car constructed of two chairs with wheels. Their highway is the blue area edging the Yakima restaurant where their story alternates with and eventually intersects with that of the prayerful restaurant owner Charlotte (Betsy Aidem) and her sex and adventure starved teen aged daughter Maggie who hides her sweepstakes tickets on the back of Mom's picture of Jesus. The restaurant's only customer is Steven (Michael Mastro), a math professor. Mastro's performance contributes to this unlikely seducer of any woman, let alone jailbait Maggie, being the play's only really funny character. The dreary restaurant scene links Tamicanfly to yet another genre, the isolated truck stop comedy à la the more memorable play and film Bus Stop (by William Inge) which adds to the overall derivativeness.
While director McSweeny capably juggles the alternating scenes, the serious and comic elements of the play seem at odds with each other. Moreover, the closer these cross-cut stories come to interconnecting, the more events tend to teeter on the brink of predictability and silliness. In one particularly misguided attempt at madcap comedy, Maggie plays at being Steven's little doggie (she actually barks when at one point they dance to "How Much Is that Doggie in the Window" ).
The play's funnier moments arrive mostly courtesy of Mr. Maestro. A few poignant touches are delivered by Chris Messina. There might be more of these moments if Mr. Taylor had been willing to apply the reins to some of the unfunny excesses that keep Tamicanfly from flying into the winner's circle