REVIEW: TACT’s charming “Three Wise Guys”
The Actors Company Theatre (TACT) celebrates its 25th anniversary and final season with the world premiere of Scott Alan Evans and Jeffrey Couchman’s comedy “Three Wise Guys”, which opened today at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row.
Based on two short stories by famed New York writer Damon Runyon (1880-1946)—whose work was the basis for the classic musical “Guys and Dolls”—this new play is a perfect final act for TACT’s mission as a repertory company that “reveals, reclaims, and reimagines great plays of literary merit”.
On Christmas Eve 1932, three “wise guys” follow a star to a barn in Bethlehem ... Pennsylvania. Good Time Charlie (Ron McClary), Blondy Swanson (Karl Kenzler), and The Dutchman (Joel Jones) are on the run from Manhattan bootlegger and racketeerer Heine Schmitz (John Plumpis) who has a hunch that one of them was involved in the robbery of Shapiro’s Fine Jewelry, his brother-in-law’s establishment, and has eyes on his girl, the chorine Muriel O’Neill (Victoria Mack).
From a speakeasy in the West 40s, to a Christmas party at a mansion in Great Neck, to that barn in Pennsylvania, “Three Wise Guys” follows our distinctly Runyonesque trio of characters on a late night, Prohibition-era, metropolitan-area romp replete with tough talking, street-wise guys and dolls, some hidden loot, a befuddled English butler, romantic designs on multiple fronts, plenty of booze (“hot Tom and Jerry” and “rock candy and rye whiskey”), and, of course, a happy ending.
Directed by TACT artistic director, and playwright, Scott Alan Evans, this 80 minute charmer moves with a punchy tempo thanks, in part, to a clever set design by Jason Ardizzone-West that uses a series of doors to reveal locations and two clotheslines whose laundry provide screenspace for projections by Dan Scully and silhouetted scenarios using puppets by Andy Gaukel. Original music by Joseph Trapanese sets the mood, and a fantastic sound design by Bart Fasbender, combined with the imaginative blocking, is reminiscent of the witty staging of Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” that recently played New York.
The cast of players from TACT’s company do a fine job capturing Runyon’s signature spirit, romanticizing, humanizing, and also satirizing thieves, bootleggers, socialites, and chorus gals from the golden age of 1930s New York—heightened characters too cartoonish to be real, yet too real to be cartoons, occupying a mythic space in between. This delightful play is light, low-budget, fun fare guaranteed to deliver laughs, smiles, and a carefree chance to escape for a little while.
Bottom Line: “Three Wise Guys” is a charming new comedy based on Prohibition-era short stories by Damon Runyon, featuring a lovable cast of thieves, bootleggers, socialites, and chorus gals on a zany, Christmas Eve romp. Cleverly designed, it offers light, low-budget, fun fare guaranteed to deliver laughs, smiles, and a carefree chance to escape for a little while.
“Three Wise Guys”
The Actors Company Theatre
The Beckett Theatre
410 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036
Running Time: 80 minutes (no intermission)
Opening Night: March 11, 2018
Final Performance: April 14, 2018