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Man 1 Bank 0: Bank Error in Your Favor, Collect $95,093.35

"I know it was wrong, but you're just as twisted as I am for laughing!"

Patrick Combs did something stupid, got into a whole lot of trouble for it, lived to tell about it, and fortunately is a talented enough writer and performer to have turned his uniquely twisted tale into one of the funniest, most fascinating and fastest moving solo plays to hit New York in many a season. Not only is Man 1 Bank 0 ninety minutes of nonstop laughter, it's also an edge of your seat adventure loaded with unbelievable real-life surprises.

It all started ten years ago on an unremarkable morning when Combs, then residing in an unremarkable section of San Francisco, received a piece of junk mail promising remarkable results by purchasing a book on selling real estate. As an example of the wealth that awaits him, the letter included a sample check, made out to Patrick Combs, for $95,093.35. Since the check was clearly labeled "Not Negotiable", Combs thought he'd do something silly and deposited it into his account, via an ATM. He didn't even sign it, instead putting a happy face where the endorsement would be, hoping the bank clerk whose hands it landed in might have his or her day brightened up by this bit of nonsense.

The check cleared.

Figuring the bank would spot the mistake very shortly and simply void the transaction, Combs lived a few carefree days collecting dozens of ATM balance statements and continually calling customer service just to hear the computerized voice tell him he had over $100,000 in his checking account; a practice that served as a sort of combination narcotic and phone sex.

But when it became apparent that his balance was not going back to normal, Combs researched into the situation and eventually discovered that what he did was perfectly legal. Although common sense says the check was obviously fake, the letter of the law said it was legitimate and it was the bank's responsibility to notify the recipient within a specific amount of time if it bounces or else it forfeits the monetary amount.

What follows is a five month escapade involving angry phone calls, a possible death threat, hundreds of emails (both ominous and supportive) and media coverage that included national television and worldwide press. And just in case anyone believes any part of the story to be false or fabricated, Combs' performance includes the actual documents involved, with details provided in a slide show presentation.

What keeps Patrick Combs from seeming like some punk kid trying to get away with something is that all throughout the story he is upfront and honest with everyone involved. The only thing that stands in the way of resolving the situation is the bank's refusal to admit someone made a mistake. As directed by Robert Dubac (Mark W. Travis is credited as consultant), Combs is a likable nice guy in ripped jeans and a t-shirt with an enthusiastic knack for story-telling and a goofy sense of humor.

Man 1 Bank 0 plays a limited run that ends on July 30th. Given its all-too-brief New York stint and its comparatively reasonable Off-Off-Broadway ticket price for such an outstanding hour and a half of entertainment, I'm putting this one at the top of my "Ya gotta see this" list.


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From This Author Michael Dale