BWW Reviews: Clever and Funny Dialog in Book-It's FINANCIAL LIVES OF THE POETS
Displaying an all too familiar circumstance Book-It Repertory Theatre is currently presenting their production of Jess Walter's book, "The Financial Lives of the Poets", in which our hero must survive the pressures of our crumbling economy any way he can. And while the base story may not be the freshest, what it does have going for it is crisp, engaging and very funny dialog infused in a very clever story structure with a relatable protagonist at its core which amounts for a thoroughly enjoyable show.
In this tumultuous tale, Matt Prior (Evan Whitfield) is an everyday suburban kind of guy with a wife, two kids and a house he can't afford. So when he's laid off from his job at the newspaper and a balloon payment comes due on the house, he's at his wit's end. But then a late night trip to the 7/11 to get milk leads him down a path where he's willing to cross legal and ethical boundaries in order to keep his family, marriage and happy little life in tact. I don't want to say too much as it's better to just let the chaos unfold but I can say the dialog will keep you laughing even as Matt digs himself deeper and deeper into a hole. But that's the beauty of the piece in that you are allowed to laugh along with our hero even as he's having a truly terrible time. At times the situations did feel a little long-winded and the story felt like it ended about three different times but that's a minor qualm as the structure of the piece is remarkable. With narrative interwoven with poetry backed up by a Greek chorus of potheads and mixed with the actors occasionally verbalizing the stage directions as well as their feelings, the audience is treated to a very distinctive and original evening of theater.
Adapter and director Myra Platt has crafted the book nicely into a unique theatrical experience and assembled a wonderful ensemble cast. Leading the ensemble is the grounded Whitfield who keeps the character very human even while commenting on and getting lost in some absurd situations. The remaining ensemble for the most part plays multiple roles and shine throughout with some notable standouts. Jennifer Sue Johnson as Matt's disassociated wife keeps the audience guessing as to whether or not she is having an affair with her perfect man of an ex boyfriend Chuck, ably played by Mike Mathieu. Todd Jefferson Moore turns in yet another brilliant and layered performance as Matt's not quite lucid Father, Jerry. Trick Danneker creates a likable thug as the pot facilitator Jamie and keeps him from ever being just one note. Also not to be pigeon holed is the pot middleman Dave beautifully played by Richard Nguyen Sloniker who takes his character from good guy to bad guy at the drop of a hat. And I have to mention Ben D McFadden and Spike Huntington who were hilarious as the born again good cop and the not quite all there drug dealer.
Altogether a wonderfully engaging production that shows just how far one man can go in these desperate times. So if you need a good fix of laughs, the folks at Book-It will hook you up.
"The Financial Lives of the Poets" from Book-It Repertory performs at The Floyd and Delores Jones Playhouse in the University District through June 30th. For tickets or information contact the Book-It box office at 206-216-0833 or visit them online at www.book-it.org.
Photo credit: Alan Alabastro