The Dallas Morning News
FORT WORTH — You’ll find a whiff of Orphans mixed with the merrily mutinous scent of Dog Day Afternoon in the world premiere of John Kolvenbach’s Bank Job at Amphibian Stage Productions in Fort Worth.
It doesn’t approach the power of Lyle Kessler’s sardonic 1983 play about two brothers and a mysterious older man, or the pathos of Sidney Lumet’s 1975 film about a darkly comic bank heist by two buddies gone awry.
That, in part, is because most of Bank Job is farce, a cleverly constructed plot peppered with jokes and intoxicating twists and turns. Still, as the playwright careens into deeper reflections about family relationships, laughs gasp for air amid a dearth of emotional reality.
Russell and Tracey are brothers trapped in a bank bathroom with bulging bags of money they’ve just stolen. The plan goes awry when they discover their escape window is blocked by a brick wall.
Like a well-oiled, old-time comedy team, Marshall York’s Tracey, the older brother, plays uptight straight man to Leicester Landon’s Russell, a likable screw-up.
“I’m a doctor,” Tracey, an unlikely participant in the heist, keeps saying, as he questions why he’s there. The question will be answered, but not satisfactorily. Meanwhile, Tracey fusses at Russell for everything from the hapless robbery to failing to take off his boots before changing from robbery to getaway pants.
Jessica Bauman’s direction shows a smooth hand for farce. She playfully uses the three bathroom stalls of Bob Lavalee’s set to hide characters from each other: a teller, in a stall when the brothers arrive, sneaks underneath the walls during the brothers’ search. Then the policeman checks out the bathroom, where all three are hiding, the brothers in stalls on either side of the teller, still unaware of her presence.
Kathleen Culebro’s costumes effectively evoke the characters’ varied careers and disguises, but on opening night, there was no sound of a gun going off or the telltale bathroom sounds David Lanza, Jubilee Theater’s resident sound designer, provided for The Mountaintop.
The key question the play does not answer is who these characters are in a way that resonates with reality. There are hints, yet to be fleshed out, of an older brother who has raised a younger one in a dysfunctional family, a policeman (William Earl Ray), who wrestles with disappointments in a lifetime of following the rules, and a teller (Alexandra Lawrence), longing for adventure and someone unconventionally good at heart. The final twist would be more effective if it were clear it had been intended from the start.
While Bank Job continues at Amphibian through March 2, it’s scheduled for a staged reading at Labyrinth Theater Company in New York on Feb. 28. Here’s to many happy rewrites that could get it closer to getting away with the gold.
Through March 2 at the Milburn Theatre, 120 S. Main St., Fort Worth. $30, discounts available. 817-923-3012. amphibianproductions.org. Performance reviewed was Thursday. Running time: 89 min.