BWW Review: Rainbow Does NANA DOES VEGAS!
Once, a very talented young playwright, Katherine DiSavino, unleashed Nana, the world's wildest grandma, upon an unsuspecting public. Back then, Nana was sewing for sexy senior citizens. DiSavino is back, Nana is back, and they've both grown up a lot. DiSavino's writing, always good, is now far more sophisticated, and Nana's become a more sophisticated troublemaker in the process.
NANA DOES VEGAS has just had its world premiere at Rainbow's Comedy Playhouse, directed by Jonathan Eckert and co-starring, after Casey Allyn's Nana, a couple of people the playwright knows well - Cynthia DiSavino as Vera, Nana's sidekick and troublemaker at large, and David DiSavino as Dino, casino manager at El Tropical and possible small time mob associate. Oh, he's also Nana's boyfriend, and Nana has moved from the lingerie business to casino showroom costuming.
Other Rainbow veterans from Jimmy Cosentino to Joe Winters grace Rainbow's stage as Nana's granddaughter Bridget stumbles across secret after secret: dwindling casino reserves, Vera's side gig, the world's unlikeliest but deadliest mobster, and even her fiance - who isn't supposed to be there, and whose story reaches greater heights of insanity (in more ways than one) than even Vera's.
The sets are cleverly designed to go from Nana's suite to the lobby to Vera's suite and business emporium to a secret FBI hideout. The sets are realistic, the costumes great - Vera's professional tourist look will blind you with Vegas glitz - and you'll be sorry you missed all the showgirls and their act.
This is a show in which it's best not to give away too much of the plot up front, but it's a farce that does manage to maintain suspense not just in the jokes but in the story line. There's more depth than mere identity confusion, hiding in odd places, and running in and out of rooms here; DiSavino does a more than creditable job of not giving away all of the plot twists too far in advance. This is one comedy in which you won't see every single thing coming from a mile away.
It's certainly fitting that NANA DOES VEGAS has premiered at the playhouse DiSavino's parents once owned, with her parents in the cast, but this play is a little spot of joy that should receive attention by other theatres looking for a medium-cast farce with more wit and better structure than most. It still has the traditional laugh points, with plenty of physical comedy, hiding, and chases, but the dialogue is snappy, the surprises really are unexpected, and the resolutions don't feel forced. If there's such a thing as a lighthearted look at mob investigations, this one is it, totally. NANA DOES VEGAS has some real potential to be a classic farce.
Kudos to Katherine DiSavino for giving birth to a new NANA.