REVIEW Fast Company by Carla Ching, directed by Robert Ross Parker, The Ensemble Studio Theatre & The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
L-R Moses Villarama, Stephanie Hsu, Christopher Larkin, Mia Katigbak. Photo: Ensemble Studio Theatre
Blue, the girl of the family, using, she says, probabilities based on her college study of game theory, manages to swipe a copy of Action Comics #1, the first Superman comic book (worth over a million dollars, the world’s most valuable comic book) but she loses it! To get it back, she has to turn for help to her brothers who’ve never thought much of her grifter skills. This sets up a round-robin of conning with her brothers, Francis, who’s retired from pick-pocketing to become a TV magician, and H, a crooked gambler, until, in their need, they turn to that legendary con great, Mabel -- their mother.
As con artists, they base their moves on calculations of what their targets expect and don’t expect. What makes this play so delightfully funny is the playwright's canny sense of what the audience can and can't anticipate -- the playwright’s the best con artist of all: she knows what we will and won’t figure out, and that, as the play continues and we catch on, we’ll get smarter -- so she ups the ante. FAST COMPANY is a voyage through cleverness: the Kwans outwit one another and the playwright outwits us -- to the very end where she shifts gears to give an unexpected ending that enriches the meaning of her play.
Stephanie Hsu as Blue let’s us catch on through her facial expressions and body language that there’s some kind of special, i.e. family, intimacy, between herself and her brother Francis even before we know who’s who, and Francis -- with help from the playwright -- takes “cool” to new lengths. Moses Villarama is touchingly conflicted as H, and Mable, as played by Mia Katigbak, with her outstanding deadpan, is tops in the script and in the play.
As for “game theory” … well, the concept may have given a scientific whiff that would involve the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation which has partnered with the Ensemble Studio Theatre to develop plays about science, technology and economics* … but crooks were crooks before there was game theory.
FAST COMPANY plays at The Ensemble Studio Theatre on Manhattan's west side through April 6, 2014. For more information and tickets, click on live link of title.
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