By Mike Hoban
Bank Job – Written by John Kolvenbach; Directed by Robert Walsh; Set Design by Jon Savage; Lighting Design by Russ Swift; Costume Design by Linda Ross; Sound Design by David Wilson. Presented by Gloucester Stage Company, 267 East Main Street, Gloucester through June 10.
If you were of television-watching age during the late sixties and you’ve ever wondered what would happen if the Smothers Brothers downed a few cans of Red Bull and then robbed a bank – now’s your chance to find out. Gloucester Stage Company is presenting the New England premiere of John Kolvenbach’s somewhat uneven but very funny Bank Job, which takes us on a lightning-paced ride which slows down only when the bank robbing brothers take time out to relive their Smothers Brothers-esque unresolved childhood squabbles.
Set entirely in the executive washroom of a bank, we’re pulled immediately into the action when apprentice bank robbers Russell (Paul Melendy) and Tracey (Nael Nacer) – dressed in industrial jump suits and clown masks – burst into the washroom with duffle bags filled with $14 million in cash. As they change into civilian clothes and prepare for their getaway, we quickly discover two things: that they are definitely not seasoned professionals – and they are also not alone, as we glean from the pair of legs and diminutive high heels peeking out from one of the bathroom stalls.
The plan hits its first snag when they try to escape through the washroom’s only window, only to find that it’s been bricked over. Going back into the bank is out of the question, and the next ninety minutes is spent with the brothers, the bank teller (Shuyi Jia – owner of the legs and heels), and a surprisingly trusting cop (Johnny Lee Davenport) trying to figure out an escape plan for the bumbling crooks. Bank Job is a farcical comedy that reminds us why bank robbing is a job best left to the professionals, but much of the focus of this comic romp is on the dysfunctional relationship of the brothers, with a romantic angle thrown in with the teller for an added dimension.
While Russell appears to be a bit of an underachiever, Tracey is a doctor – and no one is more painfully aware of that than Russell, whose self-esteem takes a beating by the very presence of his more successful brother. That dynamic continually re-surfaces throughout the action – to mixed comic effect – obliterating the fact that the pair could soon be spending a long time in prison if they can’t stop quibbling long enough to find a way out of their predicament. Unfortunately, Russell is the mastermind of the caper, and as his escape plans B, C, D, E and F (recited by him in singsong couplets) grow increasingly ludicrous, any chance of escape seems less and less likely.
The cast is a major plus, with returning Gloucester players Nacer, Melendy, Davenport and Richard McElvain (as the brothers screwed up dad) giving inspired comic performances, while Jia is convincing as the obliviously lovelorn bank teller Jill. Set designer Jon Savage also deserves kudos for his wonderful set. The plot and many of its devices are fairly implausible, but the pacing and Kolvenbach’s ability to write very funny dialogue keeps Bank Job from sinking to sitcom levels, but make no mistake – this is the very definition of light comedy. (If you’re looking for something deeper, you’ll have to wait for next month’s Gloucester offering, Lucy Prebbles’ “The Effect”). But given the state of the world right now, a light comedy like this may be just what we need. For more info, go to: http://gloucesterstage.com/17-bank-job/