One might not expect to find a bundle of laughs in a play about a snooker championship match in Sheffield, England. But take my word—the laughs are there in the off-beat comedy “The Nap,” by Richard Bean (“One Man, Two Guvnors”), a Manhattan Theatre Club presentation directed by expert Daniel Sullivan, who demonstrates his know-how for cleverly staging a farce.
There is also some technical wizardry at play in the scenic design by David Rockwell, as the snooker playing is projected on a large screen so we can follow the action of pros at work. Watch closely and think about how everything is done.
The plot involves a low-ranking, working class snooker player, Dylan Spokes, (convincingly and likably played by Ben Schnetzer), who is in way over his head. His problem is that he is asked to lose in the fourth round so that corrupt characters can win bets. Spokes is an honest bloke and doesn’t want to comply, but the danger of refusing becomes huge, including a threat to kill his mum, Stella (Johanna Day).
Calling the shots in a wonderfully nasty performance by Alexandra Billings is the transgender Waxy Bush, who comically utters malapropisms while wickedly scheming.
Matters grow complex when Dylan falls for the very sexy detective, Eleonor Lavery, played appropriately by Heather Lind, who reports to him as assigned to expose the attempt at corruption. When she takes off her coat to reveal her figure in a tight-fitting dress in the hotel room where they meet, Dylan is a goner.
I won’t be a spoiler and spin out the plot with all its intricacies and deceptions. But the fun comes in the collection of the oddball characters and the very amusing writing by Bean, who gives them often-hilarious dialogue to spout and zany situations in which they are placed.
Other excellent cast members contribute to the madcap events and relationships, including John Ellison Conlee, Bhavesh Patel, Max Gordon Moore, Thomas Jay Ryan, Ethan Hova, Ahmed Aly Elsayed and John Vojda.
Suspense is worked up over the snooker championship match and the shots that have to be made along the way. For your information, the title “The Nap” refers to the surface of the snooker table, not to any nodding off, something you are hardly likely to do while laughing at so much of what is occurring in the farcical fun that awaits you. At the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street. Phone: 212-239-6200.